Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly once wanted to be an Irish pol in Massachusetts
His politician father taught him all he knew about dealing with people
As for what his Irish American upbringing taught him, Kelly says,
“I would probably say relationship building, how important it is, trust, and also knowing how to work with the media. I was working with the media on a day-to-day basis. So I think it helped me at an early age to work with the media and reach out as best we could to build good relationships.”
Now he has led the team from unranked to the BCS National Championship game. It ties in with what he said in the interview with Irish America, pointing to a painting of faceless workingmen on his wall, which is his favorite.
“You can see they’re Irish…I look at that [and I see] the Irish immigrants who came over and lost their lives and dug the canals. When I first saw it I said, “I’ve got to have that picture.” It also is about where we want to bring our football team – back to its Fighting Irish roots. Back to faceless and nameless. It’s not about superstars but about a team, about trust and commitment and all the things I was taught growing up from my family, from my Irish Catholic roots, and we’re trying to bring Notre Dame back to that, and that’s kind of the full circle here.
“That’s the job and the process. When you’ve been in it and it’s ingrained in you and you know where you want to go with it, you don’t get derailed too easily.”
His success has not surprised many of his closest associates.”I'm not surprised at all by what he’s done,” said Curt Anes, who played quarterback for Kelly when Grand Valley State won the Division II national championship in 2002, told the Associated Press.
“It’s the nature of who he is. He’s such a leader. He’s tenacious in what he does. He’s just really doggone good at it.”
Kelly played football in Assumption College in Worcester, Mass. His love for the game led him to quit politics and accept a graduate assistant's job at Grand Valley State where he was paid $460 every two weeks.
After two years as a Grand Valley graduate assistant, the defensive coordinator left and Kelly was offered the job. Kelly became head coach in 1991 after Tom Beck was hired by Holtz as an assistant at Notre Dame.
‘‘If there’s a chapter to the start of my career, it’s when I was presented with an opportunity, I took advantage of it,’’ Kelly said.
Working at a small school forced him to learn every aspect of the program.
“So I had to learn how to organize special teams. I had to understand how to take on a blitz patterns. I had to draw the cards that graduate assistants show,” he said.
Michigan Tech Coach Tom Kearly believes Kelly makes a good coach because he is always asking questions.
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