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January 5, 2013

Brian Kelly


COACH BRIAN KELLY:  Feels like I'm in a dunk tank.  There's nothing out there, I hope.
You know, when you get a chance to go before the media at the venue, it finally hits you that it's getting close.  It's been a long journey to get to this point for us.  Certainly we're excited to be here.  But more importantly, we're here to win a football game.
I like the way our guys have handled this, this long journey, but more importantly the time here in Miami.  The Orange Bowl Committee, when you talk about hospitality, they understand what that means.  We've been treated great all week.  Our kids have enjoyed Miami.  They've enjoyed all of the venues.  But you can sense and you can feel that they're ready to play, and I know as a football team we'll be ready to play Monday night.  With that, I'll open it up to questions.

Q.  Talk about the match‑up with Alabama.  There's been speculation about the NFL showing interest in you.  Can you confirm that some people from the NFL have contacted your agent and inquired?
COACH BRIAN KELLY:  Yeah, you know, any of those things that occur relative to contact, there's a strict protocol for that.  They have to contact my representation and then they've got to follow through that.
If that did occur, then all that stuff is secondary to this football game.  My focus‑‑ this is the biggest game that I've ever been involved in, so my focus is 100 percent on this football game.  All that other stuff, that happens when you're winning football games.  I've been through this a lot in my career.  It's flattering if there is interest, which I don't know that there is, but again, that is such a secondary topic for me right now, it's all about this game.

Q.  Coach Saban said he was a college coach after having dipped into the NFL.  Is that the same for you?  Are you a college coach or has the NFL ever been a desire for you?
COACH BRIAN KELLY:  No, and I think when I took the job at Notre Dame, I think I said it was a dream job.  But I never went around day to day anything about being the Notre Dame head coach, because the job that I had in hand was what I was thinking about.  And I think that's the same thing with the NFL.
I think from my perspective I've got the best job in the country, NFL, college, high school, whatever.  I just look at the place that I'm at and thankful for the opportunity that I have.

Q.  You have embraced the nostalgia with Notre Dame when you took this job.  There are worldwide fans for the Fighting Irish.  How much pressure is on this team?
COACH BRIAN KELLY:  I think there's been pressure on this football team since I stepped on campus.  What we've tried to do is take that pressure of unfulfilled expectations to one of let's be who we are.  As we get into Monday night we're going to play the game the way we've played it all year.  We're going to play fast, we're going to play aggressive because we don't carry all those perceived burdens.  They're 18 to 21 year olds, they have no idea what that history means.  We do, our fan base certainly does, but what I've tried hard to do is let our kids go play the game and let their actions speak, and not let all of this outside perceived pressure for the entire Notre Dame nation to weigh heavily on them.

Q.  I just wanted to know, Assumption College doesn't have the program size that Notre Dame does, but is there anything you took away from playing there or coaching there that you've taken to Notre Dame?
COACH BRIAN KELLY:  Absolutely.  All of my stops along my career have been formative for me to be where I am today.  Assumption College, a Division II program with no scholarships, I remember having to take my car, turn the lights on so we could paint the field Friday night before the Saturday game.  The coaches did that.
All of those experiences help formulate who you are today.  I know how to appreciate the work that our support staff puts in every single day, and I think all those things help you when you get to Notre Dame.

Q.  What's the biggest difference between those championships back at Grand Valley and the surrounding stuff and what your team has been going through this week?
COACH BRIAN KELLY:  Well, you might not know, but there are some great similarities.  I've always felt when you take your team to a championship site, it's important to take in all that's going on and really enjoy it.  I want to keep our team loose.  I want to keep them excited about getting back here each and every year because this is our destination.  We want to be playing in this game.  I don't want them to be tight and tense.
And so my experiences in other championship games, I've tried to use a little bit of that here and keeping our guys loose and enjoying the opportunities that they have here, as well.

Q.  Now that you're in this atmosphere, in the stadium, what would it mean to raise that trophy on this field on Monday night?
COACH BRIAN KELLY:  Well, certainly this is why we do it.  I mean, this is the‑‑ for you guys, what is it, the Emmys?  We all look to aspire to the top of our profession, and this is the pinnacle for players and coaches is to be the best.  And so that's what it would mean is that you have taken your team and your program to the top of college football.  It would certainly mean a lot.

Q.  Talk about the absolute critical key match‑up, what would be the critical key one?
COACH BRIAN KELLY:  I would say O‑line, D‑line.  I think you're going to see can you get the ball off?  Do you have all day?  Can you run the ball when you want to run the ball when everybody knows you've got to run the football?
I think when you have two great football teams, I know this is‑‑ and you guys know it and hear it more than anything else, but in these kinds of games, it's going to be decided up front.

Q.  A number of people have come forth with an opinion that you take a more measured approach on the sideline now than maybe a few years ago.  Do you agree with that opinion?  And if so, is it a conscious decision on your part?
COACH BRIAN KELLY:  It's time and place.  It's time and place relative to that measured approach that you're talking about.  First couple of years we needed to grow, and I was hard on our team, there's no question.  I don't have to have that kind of same presence with our football team in year 3.  They understand exactly what the expectations are, and I don't have to remind them.  I was doing a lot of reminding in the first couple of years.  Doing much less of that, but that's pretty typical in my stays at each program is that by your third year, everybody is on the same page.

Q.  Can you talk about the SC game, the long layoff and maybe your team peaking at the right time on Monday night.
COACH BRIAN KELLY:  Well, the same concern.  I know Nick probably feels the same way.  You have this kind of layoff, and you use a plan, but there's just so many things that are outside of our control, and as you know as coaches, we're control freaks.  So you have to do a great job of communicating with your team, how do they feel, what do we need to accomplish today.
I think what I try to do is really be transparent with each and every day, working from December the 3rd all the way up to today in terms of what we wanted from them.  Give me an hour, give me 45 minutes, give me an hour and a half of focused work.  So the process for me has been to try to be very transparent and communicate very well with our team because you have such a long period of time.
If they don't know what to expect from you in this long layoff, I think that's where you can run into some problems.  I think we've done a pretty good job of that.

Q.  Knowing how hard it is to get to this point, what have you thought about what Coach Saban has done the past few years to get here?
COACH BRIAN KELLY:  Well, we're talking about historic success.  We're not talking about somebody that wasn't ranked last year, Notre Dame, or at the start of the year.  So those are defined‑‑ and I've said this a number of times, your program is defined in consistency, and Alabama is that model.  I concede to that.  It's where we want to be.  We want to be back here next year.  I think there's been some commentators that have talked about, is Notre Dame for real?  Well, for me we're for real because we're here.  We won all of our games; that's clear.  Where is Notre Dame going to be as it relates to the consistency thing?  And that's why I'm the head coach and that's why I want to be the head coach, because I want to show we can do this consistently.

Q.  A lot of people have said that next year would maybe be the year where you guys would start to peak.  Why has it happened this year?
COACH BRIAN KELLY:  Well, we had some pieces that came together more so in the locker room, leadership, demanding, accountability from others, and things that coaches can't do by themselves.  So the dynamic of college coaching is that each year it's a new team, and there's new leaders.  Those that were put in that position to lead did an extraordinary job of leading, and I'm sitting here in front of you because I've got great leaders that have celebrated the growth of the program.

Q.  When you look at those guys that were supposed to be peaking next year, what kind of experience can this, the National Championship, give them going forward?
COACH BRIAN KELLY:  Invaluable, and invaluable in terms of experience, but also the bar gets set to a level where anything less than that is disappointing.  So it just does so much more for your program.

Q.  How has your coaching style changed since you were coaching softball at Assumption in 1987?
COACH BRIAN KELLY:  You know, I think I'm a lot smarter in terms of understanding personalities.  You can't drive everybody the same way.  I'm somebody that still communicates the same way.  I'm still going to get my point across.
But I think I'm a lot better at understanding how different people are motivated, and I think I've adapted well to that.

Q.  Along those same lines, Grand Valley to here now, how many staples from Grand Valley are still within what you do at Notre Dame?
COACH BRIAN KELLY:  Oh, many.  Many.  The things that I learned at Grand Valley, from a head coaching experience, and again, that was 13 years of being a head coach, are still in play with what I do here at Notre Dame.  There's no question.
As I mentioned, experiences along the way at Assumption College and Central Michigan and Cincinnati have allowed me to continue to grow.  I'm still growing, I'll learn from this experience.
But yeah, it's all part of the process.

Q.  Can you give some examples maybe, a couple examples of things that are in your system.
COACH BRIAN KELLY:  Well, I would say more than anything else, painting a vision.  This is where we're going to go, and every single day is going to be focused on getting to this point.  So that hasn't changed.

Q.  Do you feel like your guys are already national champions and you just have to win one more game?
COACH BRIAN KELLY:  We needed to prepare to be the best team on January 7th, and all the focus, all the preparation has been on one night and getting to that one night and winning the football game.  So that has been the focus of attention and communication about playing one game on January 7th, and all of it leading up to that.

Q.  Being the underdog, does that make you mad?  Is it a motivating factor?
COACH BRIAN KELLY:  Somebody has got to be an underdog.  I would say Alabama has got the belt, and they deserve the belt.  We've got to take it from them.

Q.  You talk about coaches being control freaks, and Nick Saban is really big on the mental aspect of the game.  For lack of a better word, and I know it's a negative connotation, but brainwashing.  But is that a positive thing?  And how much of that do you try to do with your team to get them to believe and kind of be on the same page, one voice, that kind of thing?
COACH BRIAN KELLY:  Belief is crucial.  If you don't believe that you can do it, you probably can't.  So I think everything we do is to reinforce all the things that they're capable of doing.  Look, they're 18 to 21 years olds.  The sky's the limit.
I don't think there's a football coach out there, I don't think there's a great CEO out there that does not try to employ some form of positive reinforcement and motivation that you can be whatever you want to be.
Having said that, there are so many other pieces to it that I think are more important than, quote‑unquote, getting them to think that they can do it.  They've actually got to go out and do it.  And I think the biggest challenge for me here in the first couple of years was to get our guys to prepare the right way and to play the game the right way.  You've still got to execute and play this game the right way.  Belief comes with winning.  The best form of confidence is when you make that play.
Just to answer the question precisely, all of that is good.  Motivational speaking, bringing in all those power of positive thinking, that's all good.  But you'd better be prepared and you'd better have put in the time because you're going to get what you deserve if you don't put in the time and effort necessary.  That's why we're here today.

Q.  You're friends with Mack Brown at Texas.

Q.  He played in this game twice, won one, lost one to Alabama.  Have you talked to him about that stage?
COACH BRIAN KELLY:  Yeah, he's been a great mentor to me.  When I was at Grand Valley State, he allowed me on a couple occasions to spend time with him.  We coached in the Hula Bowl together.  He's just been very helpful.
He's not one to give advice.  He's not that way.  But he'll pick up the phone, and if you're calling he'll answer your questions, and that's always been really good for me in my career.

Q.  What do you remember of that experience of coaching softball at Assumption?
COACH BRIAN KELLY:  Well, I will tell you, honestly, that one of the characteristics that I really enjoyed about coaching the women is that they weren't going on to the next level.  They were playing the game because they loved it, and so in my recruiting, yeah, there's profiles; our guards aren't going to be 5'9".  There's going to be a profile for all those positions.  But one of those pieces and the charge that I give my assistant coaches, they'd better love to play the game.
And so I think my experience in coaching women and seeing their passion for playing the game‑‑ because they knew they weren't going to go anywhere else.  This is what they loved to do.  I want guys that love to play the game.

Q.  You've done a number of different things at Notre Dame, on one side diagraming how a locker is supposed to be arranged to on the other side installing Xbox and Playstations for the players to enjoy.  How do you see those little things contributing to a winning program?
COACH BRIAN KELLY:  Well, I think it's a combination of real‑life experiences.  I want my kid to clean his room.  He has a hard time doing it.  I like it when it's clean.  But I also know he's got an Xbox in his room.  You know, they're young guys.  We try to make it so when they come over to our football building, it's not a job, it's real‑life experiences.  We have expectations of them to be on time, to take care of the detail things, but we also want them to hang out with each other, and we want them to sit down and feel comfortable to be over in our building, and when they have some downtime to have some fun.
I think it's balance.  It can't be all work, and it can't be all play.  I think a good balance of that is a good, healthy environment.

Q.  Just big picture question:  This is going to be a 15‑game season in the not‑too‑distant future.  You're going to have multiple millions of dollars on the line in a national playoff, and as you mentioned you're dealing with 18 to 21 year old kids.  How concerned are you about the pressures on them, and basically this is becoming a full‑time job?
COACH BRIAN KELLY:  Yeah, we're going to have to do a really good job.  I'm used to playing 15 games, playing for a National Championship.  It's a long road.  But I think as long as we have this thing planned out where we're not playing in late January and February, I think we can be in a good position.  We play a 12‑game schedule, there's a championship game, then if we can get right back to work, there's such a routine there that I'm not concerned with it.  I think if we start talking about 16 and 32 teams, something is going to have to give on one end.  Something is going to have to give on the regular season because we're not going to be able to play this thing into February.  So that would be the concern that I have.

Q.  Just physically on the kids‑‑
COACH BRIAN KELLY:  Yeah, you can do it.  They play 20 games in the NFL.  I know they're older, they're much more mature, but they play four preseason and 16.  We're going to have to take an approach that you're going to have to take the pads off, we're going to have to be smart.  I did it at Grand Valley State.  We took the pads off after the second round.  We didn't put the pads back on until the Saturdays that we played.  I know Division IA does it, Division II does it, we're going to have to learn from them.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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