September 30, 2005

Positivity: Notre Dame Coach Charlie Weis Lets Dying Child Choose First Play

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:10 am

Weis makes right call–Lets dying child choose first play (full box of Kleenex alert)

SEATTLE – No wonder we’re falling in love with Charlie Weis. Notre Dame’s new coach revealed yesterday he used a play sent in by a 10-year-old boy dying of an inoperable brain tumor on Saturday during his 3-1 team’s 36-17 victory over Washington.

Weis met with Montana Mazurkiewicz, his mother Cathy and brother Rockne on Wednesday, three weeks after the boy had been informed by doctors there was nothing they could do to stop the spread of the tumor. Weis showed up at the Mazurkiewicz home in Mishawaka, Wash., just east of campus, and spoke with Montana about his tumor and about Weis’ 10-year-old daughter Hannah, who has global development delay, a rare disorder similar to autism.

He told Montana about some pranks he played on Joe Montana while they were roommates at Notre Dame. “I gave him a chance to hammer me on the Michigan State loss, which he did very well. He reminded me of my son,” said Weis, whose son, Charlie Jr., is 12. “Then I was able to get a couple smiles out of him. His mom got to take a couple pictures. She said it was the first time he really smiled in about three months.

“He told me about his love for Notre Dame football and how he wanted to make it through this game this week,” Weis said. “He just wanted to be able to live through this game because he knew he wasn’t going to live very much longer.”

As Weis talked with the boy, Montana’s mother rubbed her son’s shoulder trying to ease the pain. She told Montana, who had just lost feeling in his lower body a day earlier, to toss her a football Weis had given him. Montana tried to throw the ball, but could barely lift it. So Weis climbed into the reclining chair with him and helped him complete the pass to his mother. Before he left, Weis asked Montana if there was anything he could do. He agreed to let Montana call the first play against Washington. He called “pass right.”

Montana never got to see that play materialize. He died on Friday.

Weis told the team about the visit and then dedicated the game to Montana. He called Montana’s mother Friday night to assure her he still would call the play. “I just wanted our players to realize they represent a lot of people that they don’t even realize they’re representing,” Weis said.

Notre Dame received and got the ball on its own 1, but Weis never forgot his promise. He called for a rollout right and the play wound up being a 13-yard completion from Brady Quinn to tight end Anthony Fasano. It is now the newest chapter in Notre Dame folklore.

Weis called the family after the game and arranged for the team to autograph a ball he brought to the Mazurkiewicz’s house.

More from an AP story at espn.com:

When the Irish started on their own 1-yard-line following a fumble recovery, Mazurkiewicz wasn’t sure Notre Dame would be able to throw a pass. Weis was concerned about that, too. So was quarterback Brady Quinn.

“He said ‘What are we going to do?’” Weis said. “I said ‘We have no choice. We’re throwing it to the right.’”

Weis called a play where most of the Irish went left, Quinn ran right and looked for tight end Anthony Fasano on the right.

Mazurkiewicz watched with her family.

“I just closed my eyes. I thought, ‘There’s no way he’s going to be able to make that pass. Not from where they’re at. He’s going to get sacked and Washington’s going to get two points,’” she said.

Fasano caught the pass and leapt over a defender for a 13-yard gain.

“It’s almost like Montana was willing him to beat that defender and take it to the house,” Weis said.

Mazurkiewicz was happy.

“It was an amazing play. Montana would have been very pleased. I was very pleased,” she said. “I was just so overwhelmed. I couldn’t watch much more.”

Weis called her again after the game, a 36-17 victory by the 13th-ranked Fighting Irish, and said he had a game ball signed by the team that he wanted to bring to the family on Sunday.

“He’s a very neat man. Very compassionate,” she said. “I just thanked him for using that play, no matter the circumstances.”

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