Jan. 5, 2010

On coming to Notre Dame:
“It’s a dream come true. I grew up as a South Side of Chicago Irish Catholic and Notre Dame football and basketball was my life growing up. I’d go out in the backyard or the driveway pretending to be one of Notre Dame’s great players in either sport, so from that standpoint it’s probably beyond a dream. I don’t know if I ever would have dreamed to be coaching at Notre Dame coming from my background. It’s certainly an unbelievable opportunity and one I am very excited about.”

On the factors that went into this decision and coming to Notre Dame now with Brian Kelly as opposed to when he asked him to go to Central Michigan or Cincinnati:
“I think the time is right. The two main factors are working for Coach Kelly again and working at Notre Dame. Notre Dame is the one place on this planet I’d love to go to work for and I have that opportunity which means a lot. In terms of working for Coach Kelly again, I think the timing is better. When I became a head coach, I wanted to get that experience and learn a lot in the role I had at Grand Valley plus build my resume as a head coach. I think after six years I have done that. I wasn’t looking to just win with Coach Kelly’s old players, but win with my guys and build my program. The fact I now have that experience as a head coach allows me to move on and keep progressing in my career.”

On his connection with Brian Kelly:
“I think there is a lot of mutual respect. I think we are different people and we both understand that, but the similarities are our competitiveness and our confidence. I think that’s the two areas we are on the same page. We are both very, very competitive human beings that have very high expectations for themselves and those around you. I think we are both very confident in our abilities to get things done and don’t really buy into things that people say can’t be done. We certainly are on the side of the ledger that we believe we can find ways to get things done. Working for him, I enjoyed it the first time around and I’ll certainly enjoy it the second time around. The biggest thing is he sets the bar as high as I want the bar to be set so I welcome the expectations he is going to set for the coaches and players. That excites me. You know where the bar will be set and you know his expectations. He’s not a micromanager, he lets you do your job. You understand you better produce, and to me that’s always the type of guy I’d want to work for.”

On how tough the decision was to leave Grand Valley State:
“The decision was easy, the actual leaving is tough. Ten years at Grand Valley – I have more friends and more memories and had more success there than anywhere in my life. It’s tough for my family – tough for a lot of reasons. But the decision to leave was not very tough. It was Notre Dame. It was the defensive backs job at Notre Dame and an opportunity to not only do something that I think I’ll enjoy more than anything else I have done to this point in my professional career, but also an opportunity to keep progressing in my professional career. Notre Dame, to me, is a wonderful place that has all the same values my family had when I was growing up. I’ve been selling these values for years and to now sell them at Notre Dame makes a lot of sense.”

Working with defensive backs:
“I played DB (defensive back) and that’s probably where my comfort zone is. I’ve coached a lot of different positions through the years – pretty much everywhere but offensive and defensive lines. It’s my comfort level, it’s where I played, it’s where I think the game is won or lost, fortunately or unfortunately. The plight of a DB coach is the plight of a DB, and that is if the opponent gets in the end zone- whether via run or via pass – it goes through the secondary. The excitement of that challenge and the expectations to know that every time you step foot on the field as a player or coach at that position, all eyes are on you. Even the non-sophisticated football fans can understand when the ball gets thrown over someone’s head where to yell and who to yell at. The challenge of going back there is exciting to me. I’ve had a lot of success coaching that position at a lot of different places and I think it will be a very good situation at Notre Dame.”

On the importance of recruiting Chicago and how he can help:
“South Bend is almost an extension of Chicago. If you read the Chicago papers, Notre Dame is their local team. There’s more press on Notre Dame in a day-to-day basis – especially if the team is winning – than other programs. Chicagoans feel like that’s their home team. I’m a Chicagoan myself. I have hundreds of ties in and around the city and really around the whole state of Illinois. I’m excited to get reacquainted with some of those ties as sometimes when you become a head coach you’re not on the road quite as much as you are when you’re an assistant. I’m looking forward to the daily grind of being in Chicago and getting back with people that I know. I’ve recruited Chicago a lot of years for a lot of different places but I think it will be a little more exciting now doing it for Notre Dame.”

On what the immediate future brings:
“I’m going to head right to Chicago to visit a couple kids we have committed and a couple other kids we are working on trying to get committed. I think we are going to take inventory in the middle of the week. Obviously it is a mad scramble with all of the other staff members coming on board and I think we’ll stay in constant communication with Coach Kelly on where we’re going next. I’m prepared to go anywhere next. I know Chicago is my main area but I’m willing to go recruit anywhere in the country to find players for Notre Dame.”