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Former ND grad returns home

Kate Gales | Tuesday, December 14, 2004

It was a 27-year journey from student section to sidelines for Charlie Weis.

Starting in New Jersey, stopping off in South Carolina and winding through New England, Weis has come home to end his career as Notre Dame football’s new head coach.

“This is obviously a high-profile, big-time job,” Weis said. “But it’s one that I, a long, long time ago thought – ‘wouldn’t that be something if you could ever be the head coach at University of Notre Dame.'”

Weis picked up three Super Bowl rings on his way home to the Dome and is the first Notre Dame alumnus to coach the Irish since Hugh Devore served as interim coach in 1963.

Dr. Jim Benenati, Weis’ roommate from his days as a resident of Flanner 2B, recalled Weis as a “warm and caring” person. Benenati recalled sitting and cheering at football games with Weis. However, at the time Benenati never imagined his roommate standing where Dan Devine then patrolled.

“I never put it past him, [but] I would be lying if I thought back when we were in school that he’d ever be the Notre Dame football coach,” Benenati said. “I don’t think that ever even crossed my mind, but I never put anything past him in terms of ending up back at the school in some capacity.”

The New Jersey native was born in Trenton on March 30, 1956. He graduated from Middlesex High School in 1974 and the University of Notre Dame in 1978 with a bachelor’s degree in speech and drama, with an emphasis in communications. While coaching at the University of South Carolina in 1989, Weis earned his master’s degree in education.

In 1979, Weis began his career as a coach at Boonton (N.J.) High School as an assistant coach. For the next five years, he was an assistant coach at Morristown (N.J.) High School until moving to South Carolina to serve as a graduate assistant, volunteer coach and assistant recruiting coordinator from 1985-88. In 1989, Weis returned to New Jersey to spend one year as head coach at Franklin Township (N.J.) High School.

In 1990, Weis earned his first Super Bowl ring during his first season with the New York giants as a defensive assistant. Today, he credits Bill Parcells as one of the greatest influences on his career.

“Obviously one of the two greatest influences of my life in the coaching profession is Bill Parcells,” Weis said. “I mean, he took me, gave me an opportunity when I was an absolute nobody, hired me and groomed me, and started me on special teams and then I moved to offense.”

Weis coached the Giants’ running backs for two years before moving to New England, where he coached running backs, tight ends and wide receivers for the Patriots from 1993-96. Weis then went to the New York Jets, where he made his debut at offensive coordinator in 1998. In 2000, he returned to New England as Bill Belichick’s offensive coordinator, picking up two more Super Bowl titles.

“The foresight and insight that [Belichick] had is one of the things that I pride myself on – trying to take the best attributes of each person I’ve been around and he’s ahead of most people,” Weis said.

Working under two of the era’s most celebrated head coaches prepared him to take over one of the most visible jobs in the nation.

“I look at those guys, those gentlemen who I have been able to be groomed under and be polished under and learned how to deal with the game of football and teaching of football and dealing with all of the different elements and the distractions, and get focused on what’s really important,” Weis said.

Family is important to Weis and his wife, Maura, who have two children, Charlie and Hannah. In 2003, Weis and Maura started the Hannah & Friends Foundation for children and young adults affected by autism and global delays. Weis’ daughter Hannah is affected by these developmental disorders.

Maura and Charlie attended Weis’ press conference where he announced his acceptance of the Notre Dame job.

“This is not a stepping stone,” Weis said. “This is an end-all for our family. We come to Notre Dame, it’s with the intent of retiring here … I’m proud to be here. I’m thankful to be here.”