Two-time Superbowl champion Justin Tuck ('05) addresses football Monogram winners past and present at the Blue-Gold Football Dinner (photo by Mike Bennett).

Monogram Club Musings: Blue-Gold Edition

April 25, 2012

Justin Tuck Remarks, Blue-Gold Football Dinner

Justin Tuck Blue-Gold Pregame Presentation

Flag Game MVP Presentation

Joe Kernan Remarks, Annual Dinner


Blue-Gold weekend at the University of Notre Dame functions much in the way that the season does during which it is held. Like the best parts of springtime, the Blue-Gold game and its related activities bring a new sense of promise, a preview of what’s to come, and an ability to reconnect with the people and places that remain close to our hearts.

Each April at Notre Dame, the Monogram Club utilizes the Blue-Gold game as a backdrop for some of its biggest events of the season – to celebrate the year that was while looking forward to the fall and the new initiatives and activities that will be implemented to further the Club’s reach with Monogram winners throughout the country.

The 2012 Blue-Gold weekend was considered an all-around success by the Monogram winners and their guests in attendance, and the Muse was there to catalog all the important events, speeches and during the three days of activity.

Sightings On Campus

– “The Admiral” David Robinson was spotted in Notre Dame Stadium Saturday snapping pictures with Fighting Irish hoops star Skylar Diggins, and later tweeted about the privilege of getting to meet the All-America guard. Robinson, a two-time NBA champion and 10-time All-Star with the San Antonio Spurs, was recognized alongside former Notre Dame Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown (’88) as a 2012 NCAA Silver Anniversary Award recipient in Indianapolis this past January.

– Former Notre Dame football standout and current Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate was on hand during “The Shirt” unveiling Friday evening before checking out the Blue-Gold game Saturday. Tate’s former teammate and current Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph also took in the Blue-Gold game from the sideline.

– “Mike & Mike In The Morning” radio personality Mike Golic, Jr. (’85) attended the Monogram Club’s Blue-Gold Football Dinner Friday night and sat nearby fellow football Monogram winner Justin Tuck (’05), who referenced Golic in his speech during the event (more on that to follow).

Monogram Club Blue-Gold Football Dinner

More than 550 former football players and their families joined 150 student-athletes and staff members from the 2012 Notre Dame football squad to celebrate the program’s great strides over the past year at the Blue-Gold Alumni Football Dinner Friday night in Purcell Pavilion.

One to two current football student-athletes were stationed at each table to share their experiences and stories with Monogram winners in attendance. “This isn’t meet the team night. This is our opportunity to thank you for what you’ve done for Notre Dame football,” head coach Brian Kelly said to the former football players in attendance. “We continue to build our program on a day-to-day basis. Our players understand what it takes to maintain the standards you’ve set.”

Kelly told the Monogram winners in attendance he believes that the 2012 squad will be the strongest he’s had in his three years at Notre Dame. He’s impressed with the leadership shown by the team’s upperclassmen and was looking forward to the Blue-Gold game the following day.

In addition to discussing the 2012 football team, a major theme of the evening centered on the celebration of an important milestone in the history of the Notre Dame athletics department. This fall, the University will honor 125 years of Notre Dame football with a series of publications, social media features, and activities meant to convey the history of the program while reveling in its proud set of accomplishments. Check out the 125th website here.

2012 Blue-Gold weekend served as a kickoff to the 125th celebration, and remarks from director of athletics Jack Swarbrick (’76) focused on the conception of Notre Dame football and the unique way in which the program was founded.

In 1887, Notre Dame students Bill Harless and George DeHaven transferred to Michigan and became members of the Wolverine football team. A Notre Dame priest later contacted the duo and asked if they would consider bringing the Michigan football team to play a game in South Bend and spark an interest for the sport.

The opportunity arose when Northwestern cancelled a game with Michigan because school officials had recently seen some live action on the gridiron and decreed that the sport was too violent to play (Swarbrick quipped that the Wildcats’ program is still suffering because of that mantra to this day). With the date now open, Michigan rescheduled and made a trip to South Bend, where the team taught clinics in the morning, then played a novice group of Notre Dame athletes later that day (Michigan won 8-0).

The two teams played at Senior Campus Field, which after some thorough research, Swarbrick determined was situated where O’Shaughnessy Hall is on the present Notre Dame campus.

“That afternoon, through the entrepreneurship of two former students and an Notre Dame priest, a remarkable program was born,” Swarbrick said. “The legacy begun that day has been extended 125 years by the efforts of individuals who by their own right have done great things, but collectively have built a culture that is Notre Dame football.”

Junior safety Zeke Motta represented the current Notre Dame football team at the podium and discussed how that culture created by former players has given him and his teammates an exemplary model to follow while performing on the field and in the classroom.

“After reflecting on my time at Notre Dame, I’ve noticed my own personal growth as a person and a player,” Motta said. “I’ve witnessed that evolution in my teammates as well and we’ve really grown that brotherhood. By setting that standard of excellence, it’s caused me to be the best I can be in all aspects of my life.”

Motta also was joined on stage by his teammate, senior wide receiver John Goodman, who spoke about the pride that comes with donning the Blue and Gold and receiving a degree from Our Lady’s University.

“Being a student-athlete at one of the most prestigious schools in the world, we have the platform to impact not only our peers, but also people around the world,” Goodman said. “I’m so honored and blessed to be part of a place that makes an obvious global impact.”

After players both past and present finished their delicious meal – catered by Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse – that included strip steaks, delicious sweet potatoes, green beans and chocolate mousse cups, emcee Reggie Brooks (’93) returned to the stage to introduce two-time Superbowl champion Justin Tuck (’05).

Tuck received a standing ovation for his remarks, which quickly became a high-trafficked link on the website Monday.

After making his college decision and enrolling in 2001, Tuck was approached by individuals who asked why he chose Notre Dame over Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma and other prominent football schools. Tuck thought about how he felt during his official visit and how if you ask five people why Notre Dame is special, you’ll get five different answers and they’ll all be right.

“I get goose bumps when I fly over the stadium, when I walk by the Dome, when I watch the Irish play on NBC,” Tuck told the current Notre Dame team. “It took me four years to realize it. I hope it doesn’t take you that long. I’ll be rooting for you. I’ll fight for you. Believe me, I bleed blue and gold.”

He closed his speech with a story about traveling in the last year to Tanzania, Africa, where he was working on a conservation project involving re-introducing the white rhinoceros to the Serengeti. He spent 45 minutes meeting with the president of Tanzania–and they spent 10 minutes speaking about the white rhinos and 35 minutes with the president asking Tuck about Notre Dame. Tuck told the story to illustrate the impact the University has in nations throughout the world.

Young Alumni Reception

The Monogram Club welcomed more than 60 guests to its first annual Young Alumni Reception (grad years 2002-11) Friday night in the Joyce Center’s Club Naimoli. The idea for a young alumni-specific event came from Monogram Club board member Carolyn Cooper (’06, volleyball), who attended the event with former teammate Lauren Kelbley Miller (’06).

“This event is a great way to get the Monogram Club’s younger members together during a weekend when so many of us return to campus,” Cooper said. “It’s our hope that the young alumni reception grows each year and becomes a standard event for the Monogram Club during Blue-Gold weekend.”

If the popular make-your-own guacamole bar from the reception makes a return again next year, attendance numbers will be sure to stay consistent.

Scott Cengia (’98) celebrates his Monogram Club Alumni Football Flag Game MVP Award with his family (photo by Mike Bennett).

Alumni Football Flag Game

After two years of cancellations due to notoriously poor weather (rain, snow, sleet, hail, you name it!), the Monogram Club Alumni Football Flag game finally returned to Notre Dame Stadium Saturday, with a decent Monogram winner turnout despite the chilly temperatures.

Evan Sharpley (’10) commanded the field as quarterback of the Blue Team, while Mark Green (’89) – a tailback on the 1988 Notre Dame national championship squad – took the quarterback duties for the Gold Team. Sharpley used a vaunted rushing attack (much to the chagrin of gold team coach Reggie Brooks) to lead his Blue squad to a 22-16 victory.

Despite the Blue Team victory, MVP honors were awarded to Gold Team defensive force, Scott Cengia (’98), a former Irish placekicker turned defensive back for Saturday’s contest.

All in all, the participating players and audience members in the stands enjoyed an entertaining battle on the gridiron.

“This experience was awesome. It was great to get back and see the guys from past and present,” Dr. Rich Rolle (’96) said. “I try to get back as often as I can because Notre Dame football is a family. Even though we leave this place and time goes by, it’s always easy to pick up right where you left off.”

Rolle endured a number of flight delays and traveled all night to make it back for the flag game, but told the Muse it was well worth the trip. As an oral surgeon, he also had the Blue Team covered if any of his fellow Monogram winners lost a tooth or suffered any sort of mouth injury. Now that’s a teammate!

Annual Dinner

The Notre Dame Monogram Club awarded former Indiana governor Joe Kernan (’68, baseball) with the 2012 Moose Krause Distinguished Service Award at the organization’s annual dinner Saturday night in the Joyce Center’s Sports Heritage Hall.

Kernan accepted his award before more than 300 dinner attendees, including a number of his former Notre Dame teammates, classmates, friends and family.

Monogram Club president Dick Nussbaum (’74, ’77, baseball) introduced Kernan and spoke about his close personal relationship with the former governor. Nussbaum first met Kernan in 1973 when he was a senior for the Irish baseball team, and later reconnected with him when Kernan served as mayor of South Bend and named Nussbaum his city attorney.

“I don’t have an older brother, but I’ve always considered Joe to fill that role for me,” Nussbaum said. “He’s been a mentor and a prime example of how you should live your life. Anything that I’ve become professionally has been a result of the opportunity he gave me and the lessons he taught me.”

“This award is unexpected, but something that I will treasure forever,” Kernan said. “This family of Monogram winners that we’re all so blessed to be a part of reinforces how important we can be to each other and what a difference we can make by pooling our resources and becoming a part of something that’s bigger than we are.”

The presentation of the Moose Krause award highlighted an impressive evening of speakers and presentations, emceed by honorary Monogram recipient Bob Nagle.

Other featured portions of the dinner included a conversation with Swarbrick and Kelly in which the duo answered questions from the Monogram winners in attendance, as well as remarks from senior women’s basketball student-athlete Fraderica Miller.

To read a full recap of the dinner, click here.

That’s it for this addition of the Musings. The Muse will see you again in the fall for what hopes to be another memorable football season!

— ND —