Notre Dame, IN (UHND.com) – One of the nicest traditions started by Charlie Weis during his time at Notre Dame has been the addition of honorary coaches made up of former players each year for the annual Blue and Gold game. On Friday, Weis announced this year’s coaches and former Irish defensive end and current New York Giants Pro-Bowler Justin Tuck headlines a group which also includes Bertrand Berry, Jeff Faine, and Reggie Brooks.
Tuck, the all time leader in sacks for Notre Dame with 24.5 has developed into one of the premier defensive ends in the NFL over the past few years. Tuck was also the last elite pass rushing defensive end Notre Dame has had since he graduated after the 2004 season. After his brilliant career at Notre Dame during a period of time in which the Irish struggled, Tuck has become a rising star in the NFL.
Tuck’s selection as a honorary coach and his decision to accept the offer is significant for a couple of reasons. He is developing into one of the finest defensive ends in the NFL which makes his presence on campus on a weekend in which Notre Dame should have several high profile recruits in on unofficial visits a definite plus. Secondly, Tuck was fairly vocal about his displeasure with Notre Dame firing Tyrone Willingham after the 2004 season and hasn’t really said much about Notre Dame publicly since then.
Getting Tuck back on campus is unfortunately about four years too late. The thought of what the Notre Dame defense might have been able to accomplish in 2005 had Tuck returned for a 5th year should still haunt Notre Dame fans considering the Irish lost two regular season games by a combined six points that season. Would Tuck’s presence opposite Victor Abiamiri have been enough to make up that difference? Before you answer that question, remember that Notre Dame used Chris Frome, Ronald Talley, and Justin Brown at defensive end that season.
Regardless, the return of Tuck to Notre Dame’s campus will be a very welcomed sign. This past season Tuck totaled 12 sacks in his first season as a full time starter for the Giants and earned his first trip to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl. This after turning in what some considered to be an MVP worthy performance in the Super Bowl against the Patriots two seasons ago.
Joining Tuck as a defensive coach for the Blue & Gold game will be Arizona Cardinals defensive end Bertrand Berry. Berry, a 2004 Pro-Bowl selection with the Cardinals, is a 1997 graduate of Notre Dame and was a mainstay on several highly touted Notre Dame defenses coached by former defensive coordinator Bob Davie. Berry was part of a linebacking coprs which consisted of Lyron Cobbins, Kory Minor, and Kinnon Tatum in the mid 90’s.
Since leaving Notre Dame, Berry has blossomed into one of the better defensive ends in the NFL. In 2004, he led the NFC in sacks with 14.5 and was named to his first Pro Bowl team. He has been with the Cardinals since then and this past season and was an integral part of their run through the playoffs and near Super Bowl win. Just like with Tuck, it will be great to have a great NFL defensive end on campus on what has become a very important recruiting weekend for Notre Dame.
On offensive side of the ball, former Notre Dame center Jeff Faine and running back Reggie Brooks will be the honorary coaches. Faine was a three year starter at center for Notre Dame from 2000-2002 before being selected in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. Since being drafted by the Browns, Faine has become a solid starting center in the NFL for the Browns, New Orleans Saints, and currently the Tampa Bay Buccanners.
While at Notre Dame, Faine often flashed the kind of nasty streak that is coveted in offensive linemen – the kind of attitude that has been, for the most part, lacking at Notre Dame over the last several years. Before Brady Quinn was selected in the first round of the 2007 Draft, Faine had been the last Notre Dame player selected in the first round. Having Faine back on campus while the staff is trying to fix the offensive line is a very good thing.
It was a bit of a logistical problem to secure Faine for the weekend according to Weis. “We’ve been working on this for a while. He was checking his mini-camp schedules in Tampa,” said Weis. Luckily for Notre Dame, Weis and Faine were able to work everything out. His fellow offensive coach will have some logistical problems of his own that weekend because he is currently employed by the University and has plenty of other responsibilities.
Joining Faine on the offensive coaching staffs is former Notre Dame running back and current manager for Football Alumni relations, Reggie Brooks. Brooks was hired by the University last year in his new role after previously working on the post game shows on und.com. As the starting running back for Notre Dame in 1992, Brooks turned in one of the greatest single seasons a Notre Dame running back has ever had. A first time starter in ’92, Brooks ran for 1,372 yards and 13 touchdowns earning him a fifth place finish in the Heisman balloting.
Brooks is also responsible for one of the most memorable plays in Notre Dame history when he scored an unconscious touchdown against rival Michigan in ’92. Brooks took an option pitch from quarterback Rick Mirer into the end zone after making several Wolverine defenders, including current Irish defensive coordinator Corwin Brown, before getting knocked unconscious at the goal line. The play has since lived on in all its YouTube glory and usually gets brought out on the Notre Dame forums and blogs each off-season.
Once again Weis has assembled a very nice group of former players to be on campus for the Blue and Gold weekend. With Bryant Young on the Notre Dame staff as a defensive graduate assistant, any defensive line recruits will be able to talk with three former Irish defensive linemen who become Pro Bowlers in the NFL after leaving Notre Dame. That will be a very nice touch for any unofficial visit.
This year’s Blue and Gold game will be on Saturday, April 18.