Wednesday, April 23, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Kelly follows unusual path to lead Notre Dame to No. 1

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Brian Kelly appears to be the coach with all the right answers.

Nearly every decision he’s made this season has seemed to work out, from picking Everett Golson as starting quarterback to having Tommy Rees replace him at key times. Kelly has led Notre Dame from unranked to the brink of what could be one of the best chapters in the storied program’s history as the top-ranked Irish (11-0) prepare to face Southern California (7-4) on Saturday.

Those who know Kelly say that all he has been through during his coaching career has led him to this moment. Kelly took an unusual path to Notre Dame.

He played football at Assumption College in Worcester, Mass., when it was a club sport, and planned a life in politics. But his love of football was too great.

So he took a steep pay cut to become a graduate assistant. That set him on the road to becoming the head coach who may be on the verge of proving himself a worthy successor to Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian and Lou Holtz.

“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. “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 always dreamed big. He remembers applying for a graduate assistant job at Southern Connecticut State and being asked during the interview where he saw himself in five years. He said he wanted to be a head coach.

“They obviously thought, ‘This kid just doesn’t get it,’” Kelly said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Kelly started coaching on a part-time basis a few years earlier. He was the defensive coordinator/linebackers coach at Assumption while working as an aide to a Massachusetts state senator and for Gary Hart’s presidential campaign in 1984. He was earning more than $25,000 a year, but missed football.

Former teammate Dave Conroy describes Kelly as “Assumption’s Manti Te’o,” saying as a player Kelly was the vocal leader who pushed those around him to be better. He remembers Kelly, a two-time captain, exhorting his teammates not to give up in the second half of the final game of the season in a 43-2 loss to Worcester State.

“He’s in the huddle. He had eye black on. He has tears streaming down his face, and he’s screaming at us, ‘Play with pride! Play with pride! Don’t stop!’” Conroy said.

Kelly, who set a then school record with 314 career tackles, loved football so much he worked the midnight to 8 a.m. shift on campus security so his job wouldn’t interfere with practice. It was that passion that led him to quit his job in politics and accept the graduate assistant’s job at Grand Valley State, where he was paid $460 every two weeks.

Kelly got some breaks along the way. After two years as a Grand Valley graduate assistant, the defensive coordinator left and he 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.

Kelly was doing well at Grand Valley State, regularly winning eight or nine games, but thought he needed something to push the Lakers to the national level. He heard about the spread offense Louisiana Tech was running and went down there to learn it.

“I stole some of their spread ideas and then I implemented within our system and communication. That got me to start to spread the field. Then it just became addition, deletion. This works, this doesn’t work,” he said.

In 2001, the Lakers advanced to the Division II title game, leading the nation in scoring and total offense. Grand Valley State won the next two national championships. It was that offense the propelled Kelly to success at Central Michigan and Cincinnati as well.

Kelly said people used to ask him why he stayed at Grand Valley State so long.

“I was trying to figure it out. I didn’t have all the answers,” he said. “Even as the head coach I was taking the lowest-paying jobs at camps just to learn more about the game.”

Working at a small school forced Kelly to learn every aspect of the program, right down to overseeing the team’s laundry 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 knows him from the days when Kelly was at Grand Valley State and Kearly was offensive coordinator at Central Michigan and they’d trade ideas. Kearly believes what makes Kelly a good coach is he is always asking questions.

“He was always the guy to ask the question to provoke himself to get to the next step, to keep going to not ever get stagnant,” Kearly said.

When Kelly got to Notre Dame, he thought he needed to focus more on the defensive side.

“Having lived in that world of trying to outscore opponents, I felt that the best blueprint that we could put together for a national championship was through our defense,” he said.

The Irish are sixth in the nation in total defense, giving up 288 yards a game, and first in scoring defense at 10.09 as they seek to win their first national championship since 1988.

Kelly is confident the Irish are ready for prolonged excellence.

“I think the one word I’ve used is consistency in approach,” he said. “If there’s a consistency every single day where you come and have the same expectations, then you can build it for a long period of time.”

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Delta barriers no longer needed

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1

 
 
Supervisors voice concern on state Delta plans

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Dental clinic coming Friday, Saturday

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A3, 4 Comments

 
Vacaville man to stand trial for baseball bat attack

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A3

Rotarians talk about running clinic to help Haitians

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District eyes new auditor

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A4

 
County honors Purple Heart recipients

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A6

 
Solano recognizes 1,300-strong volunteer corps

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A6

 
Highway 12 night work scheduled in Delta

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A7

 
Kids fishing derby in Fairfield is part of Earth Day

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A7

 
Garamendi to host open house at Fairfield office

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A7

 
County approves Icon agreements

By Barry Eberling | From Page: B9

 
Ceremony set to break ground for Suisun City Walmart

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B9, 19 Comments | Gallery

Dutch Bros. opening with free drinks

By Barry Eberling | From Page: B9, 7 Comments

 
Mustangs and More event moved back to October

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A10

Museum readies to host Sallie Fox Day in Vacaville

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

 
Golf tournament to raise funds for children

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

Rotary club to host clay shooting derby

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A11

 
Ghost Walk returns to Suisun City

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A11

Penalty decision looms in Winters homicide case

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A11

 
NAMI talk on reducing mental health stigma

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A11

 
.

US / World

Michigan affirmative ban is OK, Supreme Court says

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
In Internet TV case, justices show concern

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

GOP candidate releases education policy overview

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

 
Analysis: Putin likely to ignore West on Ukraine

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Biden: Russia must ‘stop talking and start acting’

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
Most Sherpas decide to leave Everest for season

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Grieving borrowers told to repay student loan

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
Jet stowaway at hospital; security issues linger

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

SKorea ferry toll hits 146 as search gets tougher

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
Ukraine orders new ‘anti-terror’ operation

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

In Ukraine’s east, mayor held hostage by insurgent

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
Acts of bravery emerge from pilloried ship crew

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

‘Piles and piles’ of bodies in S. Sudan slaughter

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
FedEx sued over deadly California bus crash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Obama views mudslide scene, mourns with survivors

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
IRS awards bonuses to 1,100 who owe back taxes

By The Associated Press | From Page: A15, 1 Comment

.

Opinion

Mystery of Ukraine’s anti-Semitic pamphlet

By Frida Ghitis | From Page: A13

 
Editorial cartoons for April 23, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A13

 

Groundwater becomes next big California fight

By Thomas Elias | From Page: A13

 
Fairfield’s main problem is the mayor

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A13, 4 Comments

.

Living

Solving and resolving life’s problems

By Barton Goldsmith | From Page: A2

 
Today in History for April 23, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Community Calendar: April 23, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
 
A healthy take on the very not healthy Scotch egg

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

How can I get my 12-year-old grandson to sleep in his own bed?

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B7

 
Horoscopes for April 23, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B7

.

Entertainment

DeGeneres making design series for HGTV

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
Discovery to chronicle Everest avalanche

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

Bieber seeks delay in Fla. DUI trial

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
Bon Jovi helps open low-income housing in Philly

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

 
.

Sports

5 Fairfield runners finish Boston Marathon

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B1

 
Sharks beat Kings 4-3 in OT, take 3-0 series lead

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Prep swimming update: Postseason looms on horizon

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
SCC softball ends regular season with 29 straight wins

By Brian Arnold | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Seahawks acquire QB Terrelle Pryor

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
NFL playoff game to air on ESPN for 1st time

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

MLB suspends 4 after Brewers-Pirates brawl

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Djokovic: Wrist better, will try to play in Madrid

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Armstrong coach Bruyneel banned for 10 years

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Pujols’ 500th HR helps Angels beat Nationals 7-2

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Rangers rally for two runs in ninth to beat A’s

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Beverly Hanson, forgotten pioneer in women’s golf

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Tech boom presents new wrinkles for Wrigley Field

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Warriors announce new plans for SF arena

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Kentucky freshman Julius Randle to enter NBA draft

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
AP Source: N.Y. Giants’ Hill facing 3rd suspension

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Warriors’ Curry eager to erase Game 2 nightmare

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Spurs’ Popovich wins NBA Coach of the Year

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Raiders begin offseason workouts

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
David Moyes out as Manchester United manager

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

NBA Playoffs: Raptors even series with Nets

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
.

Business

Novartis reshapes business with GSK, Lilly deals

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

 
McDonald’s 1Q profit slips as US sales decline

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

AT&T had strong 1Q on wireless installment plans

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

 
Valeant, Ackman make $45.6B Allergan bid

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

.

Obituaries

Robert James Carty Sr.

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Richard P. Horn

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Dondi Martin

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Anne Irene Elizabeth Fulgoni

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 3 Comments

Kyong Hee Maxwell

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Norma O’Regan

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Wizard Of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7