July 21, 2009
Notre Dame, Ind – — By 7:30 a.m. Lou Holtz could be found in front of the Ritz-Carlton, waiting for the team buses and making his practice notes. The team left at 8:00 on an overcast and foggy day and headed to Nihon University for practice. After the 45-minue bus ride, the Irish immediately headed into a brief team meeting. Said Holtz, “We’ve got eight practices to get all the little things right.”
— Next, one of the event sponsors made a translated speech on a sport supplement named WGH Pro – wheat gluten hydrolysate. It goes for 18,000 yen for 120 packets and is designed to mitigate muscle inflammation.
— The artificial turf field contained red end zones with the Phoenix nickname on it. More than 20 Nihon players staffed the practice in their red shorts and white shirts. There are lights and film towers – to go with 20 championship banners. The Phoenix has not lost a game in either of the last two seasons. The school is located west of central Tokyo in Setagaya-Ku. A light mist gave way to more of a light driving rain – and media reps at practice utilized umbrellas to cover their cameras. Practice was no different than at home – there were autograph seekers with shirts and helmets looking for signatures.
— Running back coach Reggie Brooks suited up today, making his first appearance in jersey #7.
— The Nihon head coach was a visitor at practice, as was a former Japanese American football star that, for the Scottish Claymores, made the first NFL Europe appearance at quarterback by any non-American.
— Nippon Television Network play-by-play man Daisuke Sugaya, who will call the game live in Japan, interviewed several Irish players with an interpreter. Notre Dame Club of Japan president Bill Moran also proved a great help with his ability to speak Japanese.
— After practice, a Japanese film crew taped several interviews and the Japan Times, the largest newspaper in English in Tokyo, interviewed Holtz and some players. The team ate a catered post-practice lunch of chicken, shrimp, meat loaf and spaghetti in the defensive film room.
— Holtz looked no different than he did more than a decade ago in South Bend – showing animation throughout the drills and sticking his manila folder containing practice notes in his back pocket.
— The team headed home, took a walking tour of the Rappongi Hills area and then walked to dinner at nearby Rotti, with rotisserie chicken the specialty.