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September 13, 2002 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 2002-09-13

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4

.FRIDAY Focus

The Michigan Daily - Friday, September 13, 2002 - 10

0

'A lot of p'opk le :yc th d IQ ii it e Nont I)
1988
Notre Dame kicker Reggie
Ho makes four field goals,
including the game-winner
with 1:13 left. The Irish win
19-17 after Michigan
kicker Mike Gillette misses
a 48-yard attempt with no
- time left.
maNmameann

t ln h irno as our

ket amail runs back 88-
and 91-yard kickoffs. In front
afain-soaked crowd of
10512, No. 1 Notre Dame
d fatasecond-ranked
Wolverines, 24-19. Michigan
coach Bo Schembechler:
Ismail is "faster than the speed
of light."

1990
The Wolverines make up an
early 14-3 defecit and
eventually pull ahead 24-14.
B~t he Ne'tre Dame offense,
'by quarterback Rick Mirer,
os tw touchdowns in the
rth quarter to pull out a 28-
24i ry.

4

The Groundbreaker
New Notre Dame head coach Tyrone Willingham's
'firsts' have opened doors for many
By J. Brady McCollough Daily Sports Writer

1991
Desmond Howard scores two
touchdowns, including a
dramatic fourth-quarter, fourth
down-reception from
quarterback Elvis Grbic;
Michigan lore will forever
remeber "The Catch."

iving in a fishbowl is nothing new for
* Notre Dame first-year head coach
: LTyrone Willingham.
The throng of alumni, fans and media that
accompany the most prestigious coaching
job in the country is just a "larger fishbowl"
in his eyes - another group of skeptics to
dissect his every move.
No matter what he's done or where he's
done it, "attention and scrutiny" have always
followed Willingham.
But it doesn't bother him in the least.
Becoming the first black head coach in
Notre Dame's history is just the most recent
of many "firsts" Willingham has encoun-
tered in his 48 years. His determination and
discipline have allowed him to break down
barrier after barrier. But according to his
best friend and college roommate, Charlie
Baggett, it's the road Willingham has paved
for future generations that he will be remem-
bered for.
"He'll go down in history whether he wins
or loses," said Baggett, who is now wide
receivers coach for the Minnesota Vikings.
"He'll win, but no matter what happens, he's
,, made history."
A firm foundation
Willingham does his best to dispel all
notions that he is a modern version of Jackie
Robinson. Willingham claims that no one
could know all the things that Robinson
"had to endure on that course of his."
But Willingham's path wasn't sugar-coated.
S Born in 1953, Willingham was raised in a
poor, all-black neighborhood in Jacksonville,
N.C. in a military family. His father,
Nathaniel, a strict disciplinarian, and his
mother, Lillian, a school teacher, taught him
about work ethic.
He would have to learn that lesson early in
his life. Jacksonville was fully segregated
when Willingham grew up in the 1960s. He
lived with blacks, went to school with them
^{ and played football with them.
Childhood friend Marion Wigfall, who
still resides in Jacksonville, lived in the
A same, close-knit neighborhood with Willing-
ham. Wigfall said Willingham's parents were
y always helping other families in the commu-
nity. They even opened up their basement to
give kids in the area a chance for recreation.
Willingham's parents weren't going to let
the violence that was plaguing the South
04 harm him and his three siblings. They shel-
0 tered him and kept him on track.
And that explains a lot. It sheds light on
why Willingham disciplines his players like
he does, and why he trusts them and pushes
them to succeed like they're his own kids.
"He has a chance to be a parent and a
father away from home," Baggett said. "I
remember one time when I was talking to Ty
about getting out of coaching. He said, 'That
would be the worst thing you could do."'
Willingham played in an all-black football
league at the beginning of his high school
k career. But with the late-'60s came desegre-
gation and new opportunities - opportuni-
ties Willingham wouldn't take for granted.
Willingham transferred to Jacksonville
High School, joining one of the first waves
o of educational integration. High school
teammate Michael Stevens said that the
N On
tMichigan andN
or at least anot
Wilinham, a fo
Spartan is used
ink A Abor ...
the fut re holds
old rivalry.
to
E -

main difference was that "sometimes, the
best athletes weren't given a chance to play."
As a 5-foot-7, 140-pound black quarterback
in a predominantly white school, most
thought Willingham would spend his three
years on the bench. But senior year, he won
the job. It came as no surprise to anyone who
knew him. What Willingham wants, he gets.
"He was able to go to a white school and
play as a quarterback in the South," said
Jimmy Raye, who recruited Willingham to
Michigan State. "That speaks something of
the character and the perseverance of the
young man."
As Willingham's high school
career progressed his stature
didn't follow. He was told he
"wasn't big enough, tall
enough or smart enough" to
play in the college game.
Most expected Willingham
to play for a traditionally
black college as was
required before desegrega-
tion. But he knew there
was an opportunity else-
where.
No backup
Willingham requested
attention from hundreds of
schools, sending them letters
hoping for just one to give him a
chance. His tireless belief in him-
self paid off, as Raye looked past
Willingham's size and took notice of
his passing ability and natural leader-
ship. The head coach at Michigan
State, Duffy Daugherty, didn't want
to offer a scholarship to such a small
quarterback, but Willingham accepted
the offer to walkon with the chance to
earn a scholarship in the future.
And that's where he met
Baggett, a high-profile
freshman quarterback
transfer from North Car-
olina, also recruited by
Raye. Baggett was.
groomed to be the
starter, Willingham the
backup. It made sense.
It wasn't until a year
after Denny Stolz took over
the reigns of the program in
1973 that Willingham was
awarded a scholarship.
"I learned perseverance at
Michigan State," said Will-
ingham, who went on to
play wide receiver and
return punts in his fifth
year. "Because when you
walk on, there seems to
be insurmountable odds
in front of you."
Stolz said that he
watched Willingham
closely that first year and
saw how valuable he was
to the team, even as a
backup.
"Mentally and leader-
ship-wise, he was no
backup," Stolz said.

"He was out front. He was so proud that he
had overcome his physical limitations to
earn a Big Ten scholarship."
Willingham was like an assistant coach to
Stolz, as Baggett continued to lead the team
on the field. Stolz said that he was the first
Big Ten coach to signal plays in from the
sidelines, and needless to say, Willingham
ran with the new idea.
"He was my signal man," Stolz said. "I
don't recall him ever making a mistake. He
not only signaled the plays in, he developed
the signals. I'll never forget that."
Another thing Stolz and Baggett will
never forget is a speech Willingham gave to
the team one Friday night in Bloomington in
1974. Coming off a monumental upset over
No. 1 Ohio State the week before, Willing-
ham could tell his teammates weren't as
focused as they should be on beating the
underdog Hoosiers.
"Tyrone got up and said, 'Hey guys, if we
can't beat Indiana, we don't deserve all
the accolades for beating Ohio
State,' " Stolz said. "You could
hear a pin drop.
"Here's a guy who wasn't even
playing. He said some things that
struck home."
The Spartans won the game that
week, and Willingham continued to
win the respect of his teammates,
especially Baggett, the man with all
the glamour. -
"He was a leader for all of us,"
B Baggett said. "We all looked up to
him back then. He didn't drink, he
didn 't smoke, he was a disciplined
guy in all aspects of the word. He
kept us straight."
As straight-laced as he was,
\\Willingham still knew how to
have fun - just within reason.
He took pride in his music col-
lection - organized alphabet-
ically - and nothing got him
more excited than a competi-
tive game of cards in the
fidorm.
"A lot of guys who
lived in the dorm with
us, they wouldn't see
that side of him until
they got to the card
table," Baggett said.
"He would slam
cards down when
he won. He would-
n't do it outside
those doors. He's
not a deadpan, he
can have a little
fun."
Baggett remem-
bers riding on the
open highway with
Willingham in his
'64 Chevy during the
12-hour drive from
East Lansing to
North Carolina, talk-
ing about their ambi-
tions, goals, and
anything else that
came to mind. Their
whole lives were in

front of them.
"I knew whatever he did, he was going to
be successful," Baggett said. "When Ty set a
goal, he drove himself to attain it."
Staying true
In 1994, after a six-year stint coaching
running backs under Dennis Green at Stan-
ford and for the Minnesota Vikings, Willing-
ham accepted the head coaching job at
Stanford. In 1999, he led the Cardinal to
their first Rose Bowl appearance in 28 years.
Expectations grew, but with that came
national attention. It was just a matter of
time before he received a more enticing
offer, and that offer came rather unexpected-
ly in early January.
Willingham interviewed at Notre Dame
along with Georgia Tech's George O'Leary.
You know the story. O'Leary was chosen
over Willingham, but it wasn't long before
Notre Dame Athletic Director Kevin White
found out O'Leary's resume was as clean as
the language on an Eminem track.
White had no choice but to save face and
offer Willingham, known for his honesty and
integrity, the coveted job.
"This is a classic case of divine interven-
tion," White said. "In my view, Ty was sup-
posed to be at Notre Dame and at the end of
the day, he's the head football coach here."
White said that Willingham's color had
nothing to do with his hiring. Regardless,
Willingham represents a drastic break from
tradition at Notre Dame. He's non-white,
non-Irish, non-Catholic and plans to incor-
porate a West Coast offense. He won't name
captains until the year is over because he
doesn't want to "limit the scope of his lead-
ership." He certainly won't bring Irish fans
to tears at their traditional Friday night pep
rallies at the Joyce Center like Lou Holtz did
countless times.
But he will work tirelessly, trying to turn
around a program decimated by a lack of
discipline on the field and in the classroom.
One of Willingham's first moves as coach
was to dismiss star running back Julius
Jones from the team because of failure to
meet academic requirements. With that
move, he lost his only proven offensive
playmaker.
Fans and media are questioning his team's
offensive talent, but Willingham isn't wor-
ried about that right now. In fact, he never
did worry about that sort of thing.
He's taken the hand that he was dealt and
run with it, just like he has done each day of
his life. Willingham's past perseverance
commands respect all by itself. But players
respect him more for what he expects of
them, the extra responsibility he entrusts.
Senior cornerback Shane Walton said his
new coach demands perfection. Willing-
ham has already introduced his Irish play-
ers to what Stanford linebacker Jon Austin
called "the Breakfast Club," where players
are forced to run on Sunday mornings at
the crack of dawn for each and every mis-
take they made the day before. Walton said
Willingham addressed the team in Febru-
ary and said "We're going to win now, not
in a few years."
Doesn't sound like the "larger fishbowl"
has had too much of an affect on him.

Notre Dame sore
I ucdowns wih,,,scod
eft to go ahead 24-23.
Michig n anser byd.vn
with a 42-yard game-winning
field goal by Remy Hamiltsn.
Trailing 22-19, Michigan
quarterback Tom Brady led his
team on a dramatic 60-yard
drive, capped off by an Anthsny
Thomas touchdown to win the
game, 26-22.

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I

ward
otre Dame are slated
her nine years. Ty
rm Mih gan State
Ito having a.nemesis
Time will tell what
far the futureof this

Tomorrow
The seventh-ranked Wolverines and
thde 20th-ranked Fighting Irish.renew
a rivalry with as rhft a tradition as
exists in college feqbalk

?-- --- ---

Phtscutyovih~iai ia Athic De arnt", NtrSame a~,
Athseic Deartmenti, Asand The MiciganSails fil

I

4

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