The date was November 14, 1992, and the long-standing rivalry between Notre Dame and Penn State renewed itself on the frozen tundra of Notre Dame Stadium, in the game that has become immortalized throughout history as "The Snow Bowl." Notre Dame and Penn State, in a driving snowstorm, battled through a defensive struggle for most of four quarters, with the Irish trailing much of the game, and putting together an incredible goal-line stand in the fourth quarter to set up what was one of the greatest moments in Notre Dame history. Trailing the Nittany Lions by a score of 16-9, the Irish had driven the ball down into the shadow of Touchdown Jesus, and were facing a make-or-break opportunity to pull out a legendary win. The following is a video I unearthed of the couple of minutes that would go down in Notre Dame lore: (please be patient, the video is 3:26) For a longer highlight video, go here.
Notre Dame would hold off Penn State's last second Hail-Mary attempt, and go on to win the game.
In the stands that day stood my father. I clearly remember him telling me later that night that he got to rush the field after the game, and stood on the exact spot where Jerome Bettis had caught the touchdown pass. He was elated, and his passion for the game was contagious; he had instilled in me by then, as a young and impressionable 12-year old boy, a passion for Notre Dame football that burns as brightly today as it ever has.
Three days later, my father passed away from a heart attack at the tender age of 41.
Nearly 15 years later, Notre Dame is once again preparing to welcome the Nittany Lions into Notre Dame Stadium, in a battle between two teams who have recently returned to their glorious past after a long decade of struggles.
In the immortal words of former Notre Dame head coach Lou Holtz, Notre Dame "means family. Where people care about you. Not just because you win or because things go well, but they genuinely care."
Holtz went on to say that "in 1986, people were saying that Notre Dame would never win again." Today, like in 1988, the Notre Dame faithful have weathered the storms, always believing that someday soon the Irish would return to glory, ignoring naysayers, believing in the commitment to excellence that has defined Notre Dame football over the past century.
My father's memory has been a driving force in my life, and his belief in me and in what I could achieve has led me to where I am today, attending the University of Notre Dame. Lou made the point to his players that they represent Notre Dame, everyone that has come before them, and everyone that has come after. And that means not only the players and the coaches, but also the students and alumni, the staff, and even the fans like my father. He didn't attend Notre Dame, he didn't play football for the Fightin' Irish, or work at the university. He was simply a man who understood and believed in the Notre Dame spirit. And as these players take the field, they will be representing everything that is Notre Dame, and will put everything they have into fighting for these ideals.
And all we have to do is believe. Believe like the men traveling the country with Rockne after being shunned by the Michigans of the world. Believe like the men who won National Championships for Leahy when they weren't too busy saving the world from the oppression of the Nazis. Believe like the men who won under Ara and Lou after the world had relegated the Irish to the dustbin of history. Believe like my father in 1992, and like I believe today in the leadership of Coach Weis.
You gotta believe.