Former QB recalls late win over Spartans in ’02
Matthew DeFranks | Thursday, September 13, 2012
Editor’s note: This is the third of a new Observer feature. The “Waking the Echoes” series intends to inform fans about some former players and will feature weekly stories profiling them and their lives since Notre Dame.
Brent Musburger only had one thing to say: “Holy Rudy!”
What else was there to say when former walk-on quarterback Pat Dillingham completed a 60-yard pass to receiver Arnaz Battle against Michigan State in 2002? The pass propelled Notre Dame over the Spartans 21-17 and to 4-0 in Tyrone Willingham’s first season at the helm.
Dillingham found Battle over the middle on a slant route. Former Irish tight end Gary Godsey took out two Spartans with a block and Battle, the converted quarterback, did the rest, sprinting untouched into the endzone for the winning score.
“The play was all [go routes], so everyone was running a streak down the field but Arnaz was on the strong side of the formation and the strong safety was blitzing,” Dillingham said. “I was pointing at the strong safety on the play and looking at Arnaz. What we were basically saying is ‘If that guy comes, you need to break your route off and run a quick slant.'”
Dillingham finished the game 3-for-6 for 84 yards after taking over for injured quarterback Carlyle Holiday, who hurt his shoulder in the third quarter.
“I really didn’t have time to think, it was just strap it up and get out there,” Dillingham said. “It was just time to go out there and play football.
“It was go out and execute on these plays and do what you’ve been taught in practice. After the fact, it hit me but I kind of just got thrown in there and had to go with it.”
The following week, Sports Illustrated featured receiver Maurice Stovall and the Irish on the cover with the text ‘Return to Glory.’
“Guys saw it on magazine stands and we were all excited about it. To be on the cover of Sports Illustrated was a huge deal and the guys were excited about it,” Dillingham said.
The Irish rode their quick start to eight wins to open the season. Notre Dame rose as high in the rankings as No. 4 following a win at Florida State.
“Coach Willingham had us believing that it was only a matter of how we were going to win and not if we were going to win,” Dillingham said. “To have a new coach and a new offense just shows how much attitude plays into everything. We truly believed we could win every game we went into.”
While the 8-0 start sticks out to most Irish fans, Dillingham picks out one moment as the best in his Notre Dame career – when Willingham awarded the then-preferred walk-on a scholarship after the 2002 season.
“I took it as a sign that he trusted my work ethic, my role on the team. It was one of the greatest moments I’ve ever had in my whole life. It meant the world coming from him,” Dillingham said. “It was awesome. It shows a sign of confidence from him and certifying my role on the team amongst my peers, my teammates. It was great and it meant everything at the time.”
Despite his walk-on status, Dillingham was recruited to Notre Dame to play football. Prior to his arrival, the Irish had an abundance of quarterbacks with Holiday, Battle, Godsey, Jared Clark and Matt LoVecchio all manning the position.
Battle, Godsey and Clark all switched positions while LoVecchio transferred to Indiana.
“I knew when I came to Notre Dame that the class ahead of me had quarterbacks. I was the only guy in my class so, to me, that seemed like a pretty good situation … The positions were shuffled around and before you know it, I’m one play away. I was ready as I could be,” Dillingham said.
After graduating from Notre Dame in December of 2004, Dillingham worked in investment banking before attending Stanford to receive his Masters in Business Administration (MBA). He earned his MBA in 2010.
Now, the Portola Valley, Calif., native has a new business venture: a moonshine whiskey business in Nashville, Tenn. With a friend from Stanford, Dillingham started Windy Hill Spirits, a company yet to launch.
“We’re excited to make a product in this country for our generation to be proud of,” Dillingham said. “There’s no national brand of moonshine whiskey today. Our fathers drink Jack Daniels but our generation does not have a whiskey to call our own. We think our generation is the niche.”
The only difference between the 103-proof moonshine whiskey he will produce and the ones produced in the backwoods is that Windy Hill Spirits has a factory, Dillingham said.
“No one’s really introduced it to the bars across America,” Dillingham said. “There’s no bar in South Bend you go to get a shot of moonshine or moonshine on the rocks.”
Dillingham, 29, said Windy Hill Spirits should launch within the next year.
Contact Matthew DeFranks at firstname.lastname@example.org