Justin Tuck, Lou Holtz visit University for “Football Friday” event
Mariah Rush | Monday, September 3, 2018
Ahead of the Notre Dame-Michigan football season opener, former Irish head football coach Lou Holtz and former Notre Dame football player and Super Bowl champion Justin Tuck (’05) visited campus Friday to speak at the “Catching Up With…” Football Friday series in the Eck Center.
Tuck — who played defensive end at the University from 2001 to 2004 and later went on to win two Super Bowls with the New York Giants in the NFL — began the series by discussing why he chose to attend and play football for the Irish. The combination of athletics, faith and education at Notre Dame is what drew him to the school, he said.
“When I came here I found 100 percent of all three [elements], and for me it was no contest,” Tuck said. “I dare anyone out there to find a place like this that has all three and when you add the social side … I don’t see another college or university out there that can come close to Notre Dame.”
The football team had a winning record against Michigan when Tuck played for Notre Dame. Considering his personal experiences, he said the rivalry between the two universities is a positive one.
“When we talk about rivalries it’s sometimes from a negative standpoint, but when I think about rivalries I think about those teams who bring the best out of you,” Tuck said. “For me, Michigan was always that team that we knew it was always going to come down to who executed the best, who was mentally tougher, [which team] had the most grit. I always look forward to those teams … Michigan brings the best out of us.”
Following his retirement from football in 2016, Tuck received an MBA at the University of Pennsylvania’s business school and currently serves as vice president for Goldman Sachs’s private wealth management division. He and his wife, Lauran, founded the organization “TUCK’S R.U.S.H. for Literacy” in 2008 to promote education and literacy for low-income youth in New York, New Jersey and Alabama.
Tuck also partnered with Marie Unanue, kindness advocate and author of the children’s book “Adventures of Phatty and Payaso: Central Park” to work on both of their main missions: spreading kindness and building character.
Unanue joined Tuck in the discussion to speak about their collaboration and her campaign for kindness.
“As these kids are enjoying the book, hopefully they are learning these character skills that, hopefully, if they learn … at this age will carry them through their life and offer them more opportunities for success,” she said.
All the proceeds from her book go to students with financial need at Notre Dame, Unanue said, because “it just made sense” given Tuck’s involvement and the reality of college debt.
“When I was young this would’ve been a dream college for me, but we couldn’t afford it so I want other children to have the opportunity to afford Notre Dame without the worry or financial burden that college often brings,” Unanue said. “I’m also really proud of what Justin [Tuck] is doing so I thought it was appropriate to give the money back.”
Tuck and Unanue encouraged people to participate in the #LetsAllBeKind challenge by using social media to spread kindness.
“These are lessons I’m teaching my kids and the lessons that I think should be elevated,” Tuck said.
Following Tuck, the next guest for the “Catching Up With…” series was Holtz, who led the Irish to a national title in 1988. Holtz spoke about the winding road that led to coaching for him, his dreams of coaching at Notre Dame and how the winning season of 1988 came about.
“I always tell the players to love the lady on the dome and the University of Notre Dame, because this is a special place,” Holtz said. “I know Michigan is all fired up because they get to play against Notre Dame and it’s motivating. But what’s greater, and what is more motivating is being able to play for Notre Dame. No one should be more motivated than Notre Dame players.”
Holtz also shared pieces of advice he gave his winning team in 1988 that could also benefit players during the current season.
“[I told them that], number one, we have to be the best physical-wise team on the field, number two we have to be the best fundamental team on the field and the last thing is that we will not flinch,” Holtz said. “We have to believe we will find a way; having confidence that you’re going to win is absolutely critical.”