To The Fighting Irish…

I understand you fellows have a big game this Saturday in Los Angeles.  Please indulge me, to tell you a little about some of the big games of my day, and how Notre Dame was able to come out on top.

You may have heard that in 1913 – my final year as a player – we traveled to West Point and knocked off the Army, 35-13.  That was just the first of four games away from our campus, to finish the season.  We went to Penn State and won, then took a trip during Thanksgiving week, winning a game in St. Louis and ending up in Austin, Texas — our little college playing the huge University of Texas.  But we believed in ourselves, played together and defeated Texas, 30-7, to finish the season undefeated at 7-0.

Later, when I was coaching, there would be upwards of 350 boys out for the team each year, to make the first squad of 33 men.  There would always be someone, who usually came from a small community, who would think, “What chance do I have of making the team?”   They suffered from an inferiority complex.  I would say to them, “Forget about it, and get a superiority complex.  You are just as good as any man out here, and by getting a superiority complex, you can show the coach you belong at the top.”

“Look for the good in one another and be inspired by the fine qualities in those around us.”

I would also talk to the fellows about ambition – the right kind of ambition.  It means that you have the ability to cooperate with the men around you, men who are working with you.  It is my observation that the ability to cooperate is more essential than individual technique.  No individual stands alone; he must be able to cooperate in every sense of the word. It’s not always easy in football, where some men are particularly skilled in one area or another.  But it’s essential in order to have a successful team.

I say, do not dissipate any energy emotionally, and by that I mean you should not give way to emotions such as jealousy, hatred, or anything of that sort.  This sort of thing destroys a team.  We should look upon one another in a friendly way.  Look for the good in one another and be inspired by the fine qualities in those around us, and forget about their faults.

Now, I remember the fall of 1930, when we went out to play the University of Southern California.  Some folks were saying there was no way we could win.  I remember very well the pregame dressing room scene. The boys were unusually quiet, and from out in the stadium we could the hear USC band playing.  Gradually the music faded away as the band marched off the field.  I then turned to the team and said, “Boys, you are today going up against a great football team; how great, we don’t know, but I don’t think they are a bit better than you are.  In fact, I think you are just as good as they are.

“I know what shape you are in physically, and I know how much football you know mentally – but there’s one thing I don’t know and that’s what’s in your hearts.  What is in your hearts?  You’re going out there this afternoon and show more than 70,000 people what’s in your hearts!”

So that’s my message to you fellows this week – show ‘em what’s in your hearts.  That you’ve worked and learned and practiced and strived all season with one another.  That you care about one another, that you’re in this together.  All for one, and one for all.

Now go get ‘em!!!

–Coach Knute Rockne

(In researching the life of Coach Knute Rockne for our 2013 biography, we found much of the preceeding in speeches given by the coach.)