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Charlie Weis, the dedicated early riser

Pat Leonard | Friday, April 22, 2005

The sun was just beginning to rise.

Early Wednesday, Notre Dame’s campus lay still save for a few chirping birds. The cranes on site at the construction of the new Jordan Hall of Science along Juniper Road, normally buzzing with activity, sat motionless.

But across the street at the Joyce Center, a car pulled up, and a man emerged. It was Charlie Weis. It was 5:38 a.m. And Weis was unlocking the doors to enter the football office for another day’s work.

There have been coaches with the same dedication. There have been coaches who did not sleep and who worked tirelessly to make a name for themselves. But right now, Weis is showing a relentless desire to make a name for Notre Dame.

Weis emphasized upon his arrival that improvement does not happen immediately and cannot be expected to take place right away. However, he is going to great measures to ensure the program receives the proper support, support from himself and from various members of the Notre Dame community.

Most recognizably, Weis invited alums Tim Brown, Joe Montana, Joe Theismann and Chris Zorich to be honorary coaches during Saturday’s Blue-Gold game.

All four accepted the invitation.

One would think a man with four Super Bowl rings and a reputation as one of the top offensive minds in all of football would never stop selling himself. To an extent, Weis never stops. He jokes often about how he hopes his championship jewelry will attract top talent to South Bend.

But the new head coach also understands and uses the components of Notre Dame that can make the Irish football program so identifiable and successful.

“There’s a lot of rich tradition at Notre Dame that I’d like our players to be a part of,” the coach said. “I just know that I feel I’m just a part of Notre Dame. I’m not Notre Dame myself.”

Weis did not play a sport during his college years, but he was a student who lived in the dorms.

That is why the coach met with students in the Joyce Center on his first day of work.

That is why he visited each campus dorm and spoke for 45 minutes to an hour on football and on life for the first few weeks of his coaching tenure.

And that is why, when Weis has found any opportunity to sell and promote and improve Notre Dame thus far, he has understood he must take advantage of it.

Weis had received three verbal commitments as of Thursday morning and could have more when the Blue-Gold weekend concludes.

Eighty junior recruits visited campus on Feb. 27, the weekend of the Notre Dame-UCLA basketball game, and prospects Zach Frazer, Barry Gallup and Munir Prince are already sold.

Sold, also, are all of the gold seats of Notre Dame Stadium to the Blue-Gold game.

Many observers at the team’s first spring practice were not sold on the strict beginning being unscripted, when Weis made his offense run the first play from scrimmage three times. However, scripted or not, Weis had set a tone for the team, and every person on the sidelines was forced to realize it was what this program needs.

Weis has become the leader Notre Dame needed – a visible leader whose intensity and purpose remain constant, even at 5:38 a.m. when nobody’s watching.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Pat Leonard at pleonard@nd.edu