Editor’s note: Of the 1,249 men in the Notre Dame Class of 1958, who are now at or approaching the age of 80, almost two-thirds are alive. Jack Barthel ’58 solicited reflections from the surviving members and received contributions from 90 of them. On each of the five Fridays in July, this magazine is presenting excerpts from the book he put together: Echoes of ’58: Recollections of the Notre Dame class of 1958.
Many Notre Dame fans dream of addressing the football team at halftime. The reality is daunting.
I had this opportunity at Michigan State in 1982. The Irish were leading 11-0 and just before halftime I left to get soft drinks. As I reached the aisle I noticed the steps were clear all the way to the field. Frustrated with the play calling, I approached coach Gerry Faust and unabashedly proclaimed, “You’re going to have to be more imaginative than running off tackle to win this game.”
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First he was stunned. Then I was.
After being startled for a second, Faust grabbed me around the waist and said, “Come with me.” Soon we were running off the field together. As we entered the tunnel, Faust demanded, “Because you know so much, I want you to tell the team what to do in the second half.”
Talk about panic! What to do? Give a Gipper speech? A rah-rah exhortation? Tell them they were playing lousy? Put Xs and Os on the chalkboard?
After protesting that, “You can’t be serious,” he emphatically said he was. Thirty seconds later I was in the locker room with all the players. A perfect squelch. Faust had called my bluff. My dream was now a nightmare. I was like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. I was embarrassed, remorseful, ashamed, humbled. I apologized to Faust profusely.
Faust was very gracious and forgiving. He changed from controlled firmness to sympathetic understanding to warm friendliness. He invited me to stay in the locker room and address the team later if I wished.
I tried to hide in the corner. It was Faust’s security man, Paul Harvey, who calmed me down and convinced me to take advantage of an opportunity few fans ever have.
Near the end of the halftime, Faust took me to a raised platform and introduced me to the team. I was overdressed in ND gear and looking rather sheepish. I first told the team how I got there and apologized publicly to Faust. Then I merely passed on this advice, “When things are not going as you wish, don’t depend on others to step up. Like my approaching Coach Faust on the sidelines, do something dramatic yourself.”
I confess my talk was not very inspirational. ND did not score in the second half, although we did win 11-3.
I explained my late return with the soft drinks that I was in the locker room addressing the team. You can bet my friends believed every word.
In August, prior to coming to Notre Dame, my left ankle was mangled in a football game.
Notre Dame still honored my scholarship, although I had played no ball that fall or even practiced. Freshmen were not eligible to play anyway.
When spring practice arrived, my ankle was still swollen but my enthusiasm to play football knew no bounds. My first spring practice found me on Cartier Field two hours before the scheduled practice time.
As I was warming up, a man with a Notre Dame T-shirt and canvas pants approached me, “Son,” he said, “what is your name and what position do you play?”
I answered, “Bob Gaydos, guard.”
He then said, “Show me your stance.”
I thought my stance was great. He then stood in from of me and said, “Block me.”
I had the full football equipment on; shoulder pads and all. He just had the ND T-shirt.
I stood up and told him I didn’t want to hurt him.
“It’s alright son, block me,” he said as he crouched, knees bent with his right elbow just above his knee.
I got back into my stance and thought to myself, “I’m going to knock him half way across Cartier Field.”
“When do you want me to block you?” I asked.
“Anytime you’re ready,” he said.
Once more the thought came into my mind, “I’m going to knock him into the next county.”
What happened is still very vivid in my mind, even after 60 years. Instead of him being knocked 15 yards backwards, I was lifted up and tossed five yards, landing on my back.
Then he looked at me with a straight face and said, “Not bad.”
Every spring practice day I would come out at least one hour early and this coach would be there, to teach me how to be a good lineman at Notre Dame.
The coach’s name was Johnny Druze, one of the famous Seven Blocks of Granite and a teammate of Vince Lombardi on the great Fordham football teams of the 1930’s. He was the best line coach I ever had.
Echoes of ’58, edited by Jack Barthel ’58, is available as a paperback or ebook through lulu.com. It also can be found at Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Net proceeds from sales of the book are being donated to Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns, founded by Father Don McNeill, CSC, ’58.