Let The Winning Begin

<P>Notre Dame will walk into the Meadowlands on Saturday night with something to prove. Coach Willingham will also walk into the Meadowlands with something he wants to prove. </P>

The prognosticators have cast their predictions of doom. The television analysts have analyzed the tealeaves and concluded that Notre Dame does not have the talent to win this year. Sports talk radio has beaten poor Notre Dame to a pulp. It would seem that Willingham should get a "pass" for this year. What I love about Willingham is he is telling the whole world to take this "pass" and shove it up their posteriors. The winning starts now.

Why wouldn't Willingham take the pass? He could set the expectations low and give himself some breathing room. He could talk about the problems with his football team as a simple reminder to the fans, the media and potential future prospects that this might take a while. Why shouldn't he take the pass? A little job security is a nice thing for the family.

Coach isn't going to take the pass because he hasn't taken the pass or accepted predictions all of his life. A 5-6 140 pound quarterback has no business playing at Michigan State. Willingham proved he belonged. Any coach taking over at Stanford after a legend in coaching had just failed has to be nuts; Willingham proved he could win there. Willingham has been successful in everything he has done in his life so he doesn't need the pass.

I recently heard a story about the interview between Willingham and Athletic Director Kevin White. When the issue of academic standards came up, Willingham made it very clear that he didn't want a single break in academic admissions. I was not present at this interview so I can't say for sure if this happened but it seems consistent with everything he has done or said since he has been at Notre Dame. He doesn't need a break or a pass to be successful.

A leader needs to lead by example. Ty is leading this team by example when he refuses to talk about the problems or obstacles he must overcome. The message he is sending is I will not accept or use that as an excuse. He is telling his team to not accept the predictions, do not accept failure and do not take the pass.

Willingham knows that every player on this team accepted a Notre Dame scholarship and turned down many top football programs to be at Notre Dame. They could have chosen a school where the academic standards and moral standards aren't as strict but they chose Notre Dame to be a winner on the field and a winner in life. The message to these players is you chose Notre Dame to be winners and now it's time to be winners on the field.

When Coach speaks of building the football player and the character of young men, that isn't lip service. He honestly takes this job very seriously. He is proud man, anyone can see that and rightfully so. He has become the head coach at Notre Dame because he hasn't accepted predictions, failure or the pass. He is only interested in those student athletes that will follow his lead and refuse to accept failure in anything they do in life. He knows that is the key to success because he has done it himself. He has faced unbelievable obstacles and predictions of failure and still became a winner in family, profession and life.

If you are like me, you are actively searching for any tidbit of information about Coach Willingham. I have become a Ty stalker. I have to admit I admire the guy. I admire him more for who he is and not because of his position of head coach at Notre Dame. What he has accomplished is quite impressive and I think bigger things are on the horizon for Coach Willingham.

Notre Dame fans wanted a leader and we got one. I love how he handles the media and the tough questions. I like his responses to the tough questions even more. He is going to lead by example and he expects more out of himself than anyone else. Many feel that a team molds themselves after their coach. If that is the case, this team is going to be quite successful.

I once asked my good friend Rick how he became so successful in life. His answer to me was that he studied those that were successful around him and emulated their behavior. I believe this team is going to try to emulate themselves after Willingham. They will have the same desire to win that he has. I think parents of future recruits will recognize this desire to win, this refusal to accept defeat and want to send their sons to study under his tutelage. Coach's attitude is contagious and it will catch on with his team and those parents interested in bettering their sons as human beings as well as football players.

Many fans have suggested that Notre Dame will have an advantage in recruiting because they have an African American head coach. Notre Dame will have an advantage because of Ty Willingham. The winning has already begun.

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