Marcus Freeman Alumni of Rallye Notre Dame Football
Former Notre Dame All-American, first draft pick, seven-time Pro-Bowler and future NFL Hall of Famer Zack Martin hanging around the current Irish offensive line is nothing new.
With the return of Harry Histand As Notre Dame’s offensive line coach, it’s not uncommon for his devoted followers to visit their alma mater to reconnect with the touchstone of modern Irish offensive line play.
Many more will follow Martin to Notre Dame, and not just those who have come under the tutelage of Hiestand. First-year Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman is on a mission to not only recognize Irish players of the past, but to bring them back to campus whenever they choose, especially during the excitement and pageantry of the fall football season.
“When I was recruited by Notre Dame, they did a great job incorporating all the tradition,” said former Irish linebacker Wes Pritchett, the lead tackler for the 1988 national championship team under Lou Holtz.
“Lou continued. The players always came back and he opened training. I never really had much interaction with Brian Kelly. I just knew him from afar.
“Marcus Freeman gets to the heart of what made Notre Dame so great – the love for the school, the tradition, the former players, the commitment, the trust…everything Lou talked about.
Freeman didn’t attend Notre Dame, but he seriously considered picking the Irish as Ohio’s linebacker before ultimately choosing Ohio State. He understood what Notre Dame offered to a student-athlete, who was enriched by nearly a year on campus as a defensive coordinator.
Tack on relationship with former Irish attacking coordinator Mike Denbrock in Cincinnati and Freeman’s rapid rise to head coaching at Notre Dame comes with the start of the storm ahead.
Most of his decisions so far have impacted those at the Guglielmino athletics complex where day-to-day operations take place. But he thought beyond the doors of Notre-Dame. His hiring won an overwhelming majority of Irish fans and inspired Freeman to spread the love with the most worthy of them all – former players.
“They built this place,” Freeman said. “For anyone who comes here and acts like it’s about one person, you’re crazy.
“It’s about the people who came to bleed and made Notre Dame what it is. This is their home and it will always be their home. I want to make sure it’s made clear that they are always welcome here.
“They’re the reason we’re in the position we’re in. I just think it’s fair to make sure these guys know it’s always an open door for them here.”
Shortly after Freeman was named Kelly’s successor, he created a ‘state of the union address’ between himself and former Irish players, many of whom were part of the Holtz era that flourished from 1988 to 1993 when the Irish were 64-9-1. with six straight major bowl appearances and a national title.
Freeman is in constant communication with the wisest of all living Notre Dame football advisors – Holtz. Chris Zorich was one of the first to accept Freeman’s hiring as head coach. He was present for the announcement on December 3. Jérôme Bettis is finishing his studies this semester at Notre-Dame. He has spoken to the team and has periodic visits/meetings with Freeman.
After getting the ball rolling with a few Zoom calls to rally former troops, Freeman is expected to host a virtual meeting once a month.
“Right out of the chute he said, ‘I want to incorporate the old players,'” Pritchett said.
A flood of former players are expected at Notre Dame for the Blue-Gold Game as Freeman speeds up the process of bringing together Notre Dame football alumni.
“He created a whole weekend of spring games,” Pritchett said. “We arrive on Thursday. There’s a cocktail party on Thursday night, a golf tournament on Friday, a get-together with all the players in some sort of interactive thing one of these days.
“He wants all the players to get on the pitch and be on the sidelines for the Blue-Gold Game. It’s powerful.
Freeman, acknowledging the positive feedback he’s received from former players, says he’s not looking for a pat on the back for doing what should have already been done. He asks for their participation.
“They like to hear there’s an open door, but I don’t need anyone to say thank you,” Freeman said. “Just come back. Thank me by coming back and being around our players. That’s all I hope they will do.
It is difficult to quantify the benefits derived from former Notre Dame players having a dialogue with current Notre Dame football players. But like most Notre Dame students in general, former Notre Dame football players tend to be successful in their careers after their football careers. This can only give valuable perspective to current players.
“Coach Freeman told us, ‘I want the players to understand what the opportunity is at Notre Dame for them outside of football,'” Pritchett said. “He tells them, ‘These are the guys who played. These are the guys who can give you advice. These are the guys from the business world.
It’s all part of what made Freeman feel a positive vibe about Martin’s presence with the Notre Dame offensive linemen on Saturday.
“The power of the Notre Dame network is that you have a guy like Zack Martin come and train,” Freeman said. “Zack Martin gives back to current players. So you have these current players getting information from one of the best to do it.
“That’s what you want to create, this network of guys who have done it at the level, everyone here wants to do it. Guys who are not only successful in football but also in business and in life They come back and they give it back to our current players.”
Pritchett believes former Irish players will return to Notre Dame.
“On a scale of one to a hundred, we were at one,” Pritchett said, referring to the closed doors before Freeman was hired as head coach.
“Now we are at 85. Where it could go is very positive in my opinion. Marcus Freeman is just being Marcus Freeman. It comes naturally to him. »