Every day this week, IRISH CREED will release excerpts from the"Beat SC" chapter in Daniel Colt Collins' new behind-the-scenes book "Life as the Notre Dame Leprechaun" available now at www.LeprechaunBook.com
About 200 students started a slow-clap as the football team jogged from the practice field to the locker room after their last walk-through of the week on Thursday afternoon. That night found us back at work with a crew of loyal sons and daughters tagging every building, tree, bench, and sidewalk on campus with encouraging football-related messages written in chalk. We started at 11 p.m., hitting the high traffic areas in front of both dining halls, every major classroom building, and the Hesburgh Library. As a grand finale, we wrote “Kill Southern Cal Like A Champion Today” in big yellow block letters directly outside the entrance to the football facilities. Then we passed by the north gate of Notre Dame Stadium on our way home at 2 a.m. and I came up with an idea for one last legendary tag. The twelve-foot-tall letters spelling out “FALL OF TROY” in front of our tunnel looked flawless when we finally finished. We hoped the Trojans would appreciate the welcome gift we left them when their busses pulled up to that exact spot roughly ten hours later.
A searing hot dagger tore through my heart when I rode my bike past the cleaning crew scrubbing our artwork from the sidewalk outside Notre Dame Stadium on Friday morning. At least they left most of the tags we strategically planted in places where our football team could actually receive our message. We tried to take the setback in stride, hoping for the best. Little did we know our campaign would go worldwide when The LA Times and ESPN both mentioned our hype-building efforts. I could barely believe my eyes when SportsCenter featured video footage of the chalk scribbles I left on a sidewalk the night before. An editorial on ESPN.com even mentioned the handwritten messages that “covered the fabled South Bend campus.” The article went on to quote our football captain Sam Young talking about how much the hype affected his teammates. We knew we were on the right track when he said it definitely helped them believe.
When our band finished playing Charles got on the mic to tell everyone that he couldn’t find the Leprechaun so he would fill in until further notice. The last time anyone saw me, so he said, I was on a secret mission to steal Southern Cal’s signature silver sword from their mascot Tommy Trojan. A confused mutter sprang up from the crowd, so Charles gave the signal. The band kicked into our fight song and the cheerleaders pulled a large sheet aside to unveil our Trojan Horse. I waited for the chorus, popping out and standing on the monstrous horse’s back right when everyone sang, “…loyal sons are marching onward to victory!”
Unsheathing the shiny chrome sword I bought at the costume shop a few hours earlier, I held it high for all to see. Tommy Trojan had a habit of raising his sword in a particular manner to the beat of whatever noise his band belched forth ineptly. I mimicked his motion for a few notes, then I snapped the sword over my knee. The students rioted when I held the broken shards above my head. To top it all off, I pulled out the can of neon green spray-paint I picked up at the hardware store to tag the broad side of the plywood horse with the words “GO IRISH! BEAT SC!” While climbing on stage I heard a girl in the front row of the student section yell out, “What the hell is going on? Who is this guy? This is freaking awesome!”
“Notre Daaame!” My two-word signature phrase sounded much better when the majority of my fellow students answered back. I tossed my hat aside and struck a pose while they marveled at my freshly shaved Mohawk.
“It’s great to see all you students out here leadin’ the charge tonight! And look at all you fans, too! I see you got the memo about wearing green. You look fabulous. Sadly, the Trojans are about to invade our campus with their ugly ketchup and mustard uniforms. Let’s show ‘em what real school colors look like when they get here. Our football players will take care of the blue and 24-karat gold. We need all of you to keep on reppin’ the luck o’ the Irish with more of my favorite color. Can you do that?” They sounded like they could.
“When Southern Cal steps onto our field, a sea of green will be waiting for them. That’s when they’ll realize they aren’t just goin’ up against our football team… No… They’re goin’ up against an entire united front of the Fightin’ Irish Faithful!” The Fighting Irish Faithful let me know they liked their new nickname.
“When our boys in blue and gold get ready to take the field tomorrow we need to give them a heroes’ welcome with the classic ‘Here come the Irish!’ chant they used back in 1977. When the pregame clock hits nine minutes, the fellas will start us off… Wait a minute, where are my manners? Let’s have the ladies start us off with the echo chant. Ready for a practice run? Nine-oh-three, nine-oh-two, nine-oh-one, let’s hear it!” The echo effect worked perfectly just as our players arrived. Everything was falling into place. I felt like the Leprechaun King of the World.
Rocket took it to the next level with a deafening “WOOO! Let’s get it!” Over the course of the next four minutes he then proceeded to tear the house down. If our football players, students, and fans needed a spiritual revival, he gave them one they would never forget. Everyone in attendance turned to the person next to them on his command, saying, “Don’t flinch!” Then everyone turned to the person on the other side to say, “Go get it!” Rocket made it clear that he didn’t come to make us feel good. He only came to tell us the truth. Lucky for us, the truth would set us free. His advice: “Don’t just give lip service to it. Make it a part of your fiber. Make it a part of your heartbeat.” He told us that a challenge like the one we faced against Southern Cal required enough belief to surpass it. When he asked us if we believed we came closer to actually shaking down the thunder than I had ever heard before. Satisfied, he spiked his mic against the stage with one final, “Don’t flinch, and go get it!” Sergio Brown picked the mic up from where Rocket dropped it, repeating, “Let’s go get it! Let’s go get it!” while his whole team mobbed their emotional leader. Multiple stage dives followed, so I caught the crowd surfing wave over to my Dawgs where we linked arms for the Alma Mater. When I looked around at my Notre Dame Family swaying together as one I finally felt it. We believed.