Mixed Emotions

It is with mixed emotions that I am watching our team have their way with the Washington Huskies. I mean don’t get me wrong I am very happy for our team to be 5-2 and playing with a lot of confidence. I could go on and on about all the positive things I saw today. Jimmy Clausen and the offense looked a bit rusty at times, which is to be expected for a young team coming off a bye week, but they continued to display their big play ability by putting up 33 points. Our defense as usual was bend but don’t break, although Washington’s offense without their starting QB Jake Locker, probably could not bust a grape in a fruit fight. Our special teams was highlighted by what appears to be a pulse of a kicking game as Brandon Walker appears to have literally kicked himself out a slump that haunted us before the bye week.

About Autry’s Foundation

THE RUN FOR YOUR GOAL FOUNDATION assumes the responsibility to provide financial assistance to families that are in need, as well as focus on the development and advancement of opportunities for our children. Since its inception in 1999, The Run For Your Goal Foundation, a 501 (C) (3) organization has subscribed to the motto,” Giving back a little so we can build a lot,” which is the driving force behind their mission. Through their LEGAC*s program they have been very active in the South Florida community, by creating programs such as Boys II Men School Mentoring, sponsoring and hosting pre/post FCAT pep rallies, Reach Out & Read with the North Broward Hospital District, Thanksgiving food drives, Christmas toy drives and several other youth focused initiatives.

*For more infomation please visit www.runforyourgoal.com

With all that said I am not enjoying this cakewalk of a victory the way I would normally relish in an Irish victory. As I am reflecting back over all the commentary and build up that surrounded this game via the former coach vs. his former school I can not help but I think this game was about more than just winning or losing. In fact I would like to take a much different approach this week. I am going to spend my time this week discussing the coach on the other sideline-Coach Tyrone Willingham, because so much of the time especially in sports, we get so pre-occupied with wins/losses that we quickly forget about the unselfish contributions that these individuals make to our Universities and in the lives of our young men.

It is an old saying that in sports the attitude is that of “What have you done for me lately.”  While that is fine for the masses I feel for the select few that are called to be on the front lines, they deserve the right to have someone plead their case as well. It always floors me how short of a memory we have as sports fans. I am just as guilty as anyone, so please do not think I am trying to judge anyone else, but I feel with every admission there lies an opportunity to learn. I mean the same person that can lead a team to a championship one year, can be the odd man out if he does not get a few breaks here and there. Now I will never argue the fact that as a Head Coach, it is their job to win games in their respective fields, I just do not feel that everything else they do is elevated the way their win/loss record is put on display.

Take Coach Willingham for example he has been involved with positively influencing the lives of young men and for over 30 years. By the way, let me clarify just a few of the roles that a coach plays in the life of a student athlete. Just a few that come to mind are: Father away from home, and in some cases more of a father than some have known in their lives, mentor, friend, counselor, disciplinarian, and the list can go on and on. So when I am speaking not of only the football aspect, please understand that there is so much more in their job description. Coach Willingham has been a Head Coach for 3 major division I programs, where I have never once witnessed or heard of him representing himself or his University in nothing but a first class manor. I thought it would be fitting to review Coach Ty’s contributions to our great University.

Tyrone at ND:

Willingham became the only first-year coach in Notre Dame history to win 10 games in his initial campaign, which earned us a trip to the Gator Bowl

He was named the ESPN/Home Depot College Coach of the Year, the Scripps College Coach of the Year, the Black Coaches Association Male Coach of the Year and the George Munger Award College Coach of the Year by the Maxwell Football Club.

Willingham became the first college football coach to earn The Sporting News Sportsman of the Year award in 2002 where he is in the distinguished company of people such as Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards basketball star Michael Jordan (1991), former Irish and NFL great Joe Montana (1989), hockey’s all-time leading scorer Wayne Gretzky (1981) and NCAA basketball and UCLA coaching legend John Wooden (1970) just to name of few

Willingham was named the sixth most influential minority in sports by Sports Illustrated.

Willingham had 14 players selected after his three seasons in South Bend into the National Football League. Jeff Faine, Jordan Black, Sean Mahan, Shane Walton, Gerome Sapp, Arnaz Battle, Brennan Curtin, Vontez Duff, Courtney Watson, Glenn Earl, Julius Jones, Jim Molinaro, Justin Tuck, and Jerome Collins.

The Irish also got it done in the classroom. In 2002, fifth-year senior John Crowther became the 42nd Irish football player to earn Academic All-America honors, garnering second-team accolades. Defensive lineman Kyle Budinscak and linebacker Brandon Hoyte were named academic all-district selections in 2002 and 2003. As a team, the Irish finished with a record high grade-point average of 2.911 in the spring semester of 2002, and posted a 2.835 grade-point average in the fall of 2002, followed by a 2.79 in the spring of 2003 and a 2.853 in the fall of 2003. Eight players made the Dean’s List and 43 players had a “B” average or higher during the fall of 2002, while eight players earned Dean’s List recognition and 50 achieved at least a “B” average in the spring of 2003. Ten players were Dean’s List honorees in the fall of 2003.

Notre Dame won Academic Achievement Awards from the NCAA and USA Today in both 2002 and 2003 for having the highest overall student-athlete graduation rates

After listing just a few of Coach Willingham’s accomplishments It is obvious that he more than did the job he had been hired to do, whether while at ND or Washington. I do not know what the future holds for Coach Tyrone Willingham because only God knows. I did however feel it ever so appropriate as a former student athlete, former professional athlete, Notre Dame Alumnus, and father of four beautiful children to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for the many lives you have touched though this game of football. Your efforts will not go unnoticed as they are paying dividends daily in the lives the young men you have touched. You’re a class act and I pray for continued success for you and your family.

Please join me next week as we break down the victory over Pittsburgh!

Please take a moment to visit Autry’s Foundation website at: RunforYourGoal.com

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