Doing the right thing is not always easy – whether it’s in the game of football or in life. Just ask University of Notre Dame Head Coach Charlie Weis. Week in and week out, Weis makes offensive play calls looking to exploit weaknesses in opposing defenses. However, his toughest play call was one he never hesitated to make.

Coming off of a tough loss to Michigan State University, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish flew out west to take on the University of Washington Huskies and their old head coach, Tyrone Willingham. All the hype and attention was focused on Tyrone Willingham coaching against his old players. The game featured the flair and intensity of an action thriller, but ended with a tear and a smile – it was a warm, touching story of a boy’s last wish.

Ten-year-old Montana Mazurkiewicz loved watching the Irish on Saturday afternoons. Born in Mishawaka, Ind., not far east of South Bend, Montana grew up a big Notre Dame fan.

He was even named after Notre Dame great, Joe Montana, who happened to be Weis’ roommate.

Weis went to visit Montana before the Irish left for Washington. The visit was one that neither will forget.

A few weeks prior, doctors had told young Montana that his inoperable brain tumor was spreading, and his time was running out. Weis and Montana talked about Notre Dame football and Montana told Weis how badly he wanted to live to see them play on Saturday.

With his mother at his side, Montana endured the pain. The day before the visit, Montana became paralyzed from the waist down due to the spreading tumor. The weak, but courageous, boy needed help to throw the football Weis brought to him, so Weis climbed into the chair and helped Montana toss the ball to his mother, Cathy.

Although Montana gave Weis some shots about the Michigan State loss, this visit was more than a coach and fan chatting about football. This was coach and fan bonding with each other. It was a heart-felt moment for Weis, Montana and his mother that touched the soul. A moment of realization that life is much bigger than a football game. A moment that a young dying boy could take with him at his passing.

Weis signed the football before he left, and wrote, “Live for today for tomorrow is always another day.” Weis asked Montana if there was anything he could do for him. Montana replied, “Pass right.” Weis made a promise to pass the ball right on the first play of the game against Washington. Sadly, Montana never got to see the play. He passed away at home on Friday, the day before the game. Weis called Mazurkiewicz that night and assured her that the Irish would “pass right” on their first play.

Washington drove right down the field on their opening drive, but fumbled at the one-yard-line. With his back against the wall, Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn lined his team up facing a rowdy Huskies crowd and in danger of a safety.

Weis did promise Montana he would pass right on their first offensive play. But the risk of a pass may have resulted in two points for Washington. Run the ball off tackle? Call Quinn’s number for a quarterback sneak?

No, pass right. Weis signaled the play to Quinn and the Irish offense executed it perfectly, gaining a first down. Gutsy call, but the right one. It was a call made by a promise – a promise and call that has Irish eyes smiling.

Montana’s wish came true. Weis made a promise and kept it. He is a man of his word, which is rare among modern day college football coaches.

Keeping his promise to a 10-year-old Notre Dame fan, Weis did the right thing – he passed to the right. As Touchdown Jesus signaled for a first down, a special boy clapped as he watched his play from the heavens. And this is all because a special coach did the right thing. Cheer, Cheer for Coach Charlie.

Rovinsky can be reached at mrovinsky@campustimes.org.



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