July 24, 2009
Notre Dame, Ind – The Notre Dame Football Legends said farewell to their Nihon University practice home of the past week with a final on-field session on Thursday morning. The Fighting Irish football alumni coaches also gave something back to the local Tokyo football community and left a positive impression on a group of young football players.
The coaching staff held a two-hour football clinic – much of it in the pouring rain – to benefit Japanese junior players, including those from the University host team the Nihon Phoenix. REGGIE BROOKS looked after the running backs, TIM BROWN and event organizer PATRICK STEENBERGE coached the wide receivers, BILL REAGAN oversaw the quarterbacks, Legends punter GEOFF PRICE took charge of the punters and GARY DARNELL coached the linebackers. In the university gymnasium, CHRIS ZORICH and TONY YELOVICH gave instruction to offensive and defensive linemen.
“These young players have a tremendous passion for the game and were willing and excited to learn new techniques and ways to improve their game,” said Bill Reagan. “Since we arrived in Japan we have come to appreciate how popular football is among a core group of fans and players and that we can help continue the game’s development here.”
Head Coach LOU HOLTZ welcomed the young players to the clinic and could not resist giving instruction himself as the players rotated between each drill station. With all their shoes left outside the gym, about 150 players sat cross-legged in the Nihon gym to listen to Holtz’s opening remarks. He emphasized the necessity to get into a basic football position and said: “Unlike a lot of other sports, you can make yourself into a great football player.”
The Notre Dame Football Legends held their last full practice before taking on Team Japan in the Tokyo Dome on Saturday, July 25 (kickoff 4pm local time, 3am US ET) to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of football being played in Japan. Some players such as quarterbacks TONY RICE and GARY GODSEY sat out the session to rest muscle strains and will return to the field for a final walkthrough at the Tokyo Dome on Friday afternoon.
“We have had some injuries and some setbacks at our key positions, so we’re quite banged up, but our coaches have done a really good job with this football team,” said head coach LOU HOLTZ. “We’ll play hard, we’ll play well; whether it’s good enough to win I don’t know. It’s asking a lot of our team to come over here and play a very good Japanese team.”
Japan in opposition… at the game press conference held on Thursday, Japan head coach KIYOYUKI MORI, wide receiver NORIAKI KINOSHITA and linebacker NAOKI KOSHO joined coach LOU HOLTZ, quarterback TONY RICE and wide receivers coach TIM BROWN on the podium.
“It is an honor to play against a team from Notre Dame,” said coach Mori, whose Japanese team is using the Notre Dame Challenge Bowl as part of its ongoing preparations for the 2011 IFAF Senior World Championship. Japan lost the 2007 final 23-20 in double overtime against the United States.
“We aim to do our best and also learn something from this game. One of the keys to the sport developing in Japan is to compete internationally and it is important that we measure ourselves in this game.”
Japan linebacker Kosho added: “I believe the 60 members of our national team are some of the happiest football players on the earth right now because we are able to play against a team from Notre Dame. We have to be prepared both physically and mentally and it is going to be a big challenge.
“We have people who can fight and we are going to show the teamwork of the Japanese national team so that people are excited to watch the game.”
Japanese star wide receiver Kinoshita, who spent the 2008 NFL season on the practice squad of the Atlanta Falcons and played in NFL Europe with the Amsterdam Admirals, said that to play in such a game has been a dream since he began playing football at the age of five.
“I have a pride in being Japanese and although I know football was born in the United States, I believe Japan is going to win,” he said.
Media madness… There were almost 40 members of the media in attendance at the Notre Dame Japan Bowl press conference representing outlets from Japan and the United States. Head coach Lou Holtz, receivers coach Tim Brown and quarterback Tim Brown also sat down with game broadcaster Nippon Television for a series of pregame interviews. CBS College Sports Network, the original 24-hour sports network, will broadcast the Notre Dame Japan Bowl to a nationwide audience in the United States on Monday, August 10 (9:00 PM, ET; taped 7/25/09) as part of the Network’s “Countdown to Kickoff Week” programming.
Happy Birthday… Wide receiver Kris Haines celebrated his 52nd birthday on Thursday. Haines’ greatest claim to fame is catching the game-tying TD pass from Joe Montana to complete the comeback against Houston in the Cotton Bowl following the ’78 season. Joe Unis then kicked the PAT after time ran out for the 35-34 Irish win in the frigid conditions of Dallas.
Follow the Notre Dame Football Legends on www.Twitter.com/NDJapanBowl
Read the Notre Dame Japan Bowl blog at www.und.com/ot/blog.html Notre Dame Football Legends Team Schedule For Friday, July 24