March 2, 2015

On his background…
“I realized I didn’t want to be in the restaurant business the rest of my life, so I liquidated that and got into radio. I was working for FOX Sports as an analyst and did that for a couple of years. I really enjoyed my time doing that, but realized I didn’t want to do that for the rest of my life. That’s when I realized I had to get back into football. I was playing golf with a friend, Michael Turner, out in Las Vegas and I was talking to him about coaching football, and at the time, his sons were going to Bishop Gorman (High School) and I didn’t really know anything about Bishop Gorman at the time. He (said), `You should coach at my sons’ school,’ and I (said), `Are they pretty good?’ and he said, `Yeah. They’ve got a competitive program.’ The next day I got on the phone and called Tony Sanchez, who was the head coach and just coming on, and he brought me in. He told me I was going to be the defensive coordinator for the JV. Basically it was a tryout. He just told me, `You can do whatever you want. You just have to run our system.’ We competed against the varsity and we were doing pretty well and the tryout went pretty well, obviously. I was the JV defensive coordinator for two weeks and then got bumped up to the varsity.

“I got called up to the big leagues and we won two state titles, the first two out of the six consecutive that they’ve got going now. It was a really, really great time for me to get my feet wet and finding my way as a coach.”

On his connection to Oregon…
“I had played for Coach (Nick) Aliotti, who was the special teams coordinator with the Rams. I had always kept in contact with him and I had tried to get up to Oregon a couple of times just to come watch practice, but Chip (Kelly) was really tight about outsiders coming in to view what was going on. I never had a chance to go watch practice, but Coach Aliotti called me and told me that there was an intern position opening for defensive quality control and asked me if I wanted it. It wasn’t going to be paying a whole lot of money, and it actually cost me a couple thousand dollars to work that job, but it was a great experience for me. Chip and I are both represented by David Dunn at Athletes First, so I went in and talked to David about the situation and he knew I was serious about it and conveyed that to Chip. I got up to Oregon and I got to work with John Neal, who’s the secondary coach at Oregon, and it was just a wonderful experience for me. After my two years being at Oregon, I knew that coaching was the profession (I wanted to be in) because, to me, at the end of the day it’s the next best thing to playing. It really keeps me connected to the game and I love working with the young athletes and trying to help develop young men of character.”

On deciding to return to Notre Dame…
“Really, I was set on staying at Vanderbilt. Coach (Derek) Mason is a really close friend of mine. He’s going to do excellent things at Vanderbilt. When Chad (Klunder) called me about the opportunity — you’re always told to take a look at any opportunity that comes along — but I was thinking I was going to stay at Vanderbilt because I wanted to work with Coach Mason. But the more and more I thought about the opportunity of coming back home, coaching at the University of Notre Dame, being part of an elite staff that Coach (Brian) Kelly was trying to put together and trying to compete for national championships, it was really too big of an opportunity to pass up.

“They told me that they were going to come down to Nashville and interview. They flew down on the plane, Coach (Brian) VanGorder, Coach Kelly, Jack (Swarbrick), Chad. We had a really good interview and at that point I knew that, after we got to talking about the direction of the program and what they wanted to do, how they saw my role, I knew I wanted to come back to Notre Dame.”

On recruiting at Notre Dame…
“I haven’t recruited a whole lot. I did a bit of recruiting at Oregon, but I could only do it on campus in my role. I think I’ll be an excellent recruiter. I look forward to going out and talking to the different players throughout the country that want to come to the University of Notre Dame and excel both on and off the field.

“I think that this place is special and it’s going to take a special player to come here and really be successful. It’s going to be a student-athlete that’s going to have to challenge themselves both on the field athletically and then off the field mentally with the education part of it. It’s a tough ask, really, because of all the ways you’re getting pulled in different directions with school, with the athletics, it’s tough. Guys are going to have to come here and be comfortable being uncomfortable.

“We’re looking for guys that want to work hard and want to set themselves up for life. When you talk about the decision to pick schools, for a young guy who’s 16, 17, 18 years old, four years seems like a lifetime, but we all know that four years is a really short time. But in those four years, you’re setting up the next 40 or 50 years of your life, so that decision’s really crucial to what you’re going to do and how you’re going to progress as a young man.

“For me, I think that I can really convey that Notre Dame is a special place and it’s going to take a special player to come here, be a student-athlete, be able to excel. We know that this place isn’t for everybody, but the really special ones that want to push themselves, they’ll realize what a great opportunity this is and come here and do great things.”