Beuerlein’s pitch is on the money

South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — Steve Beuerlein figured he’d climb atop the mound at Four Winds Field Sunday, go into a less-gyrating wind-up than the one that helped make him a star pitcher 30-plus years ago at Anaheim (Calif.) Servite High, and let himself ponder what might have been.

“I really do think about that more often than you’d expect,” said the 49-year-old former Notre Dame quarterback, who followed a choppy but ultimately triumphant four years in South Bend with a 17-season NFL career.

Rapper 50 Cent and his recent ceremonial first misfire at a New York Mets game — deemed by many as the worst first “pitch” of all time — kind of ruined the nostalgic and introspective facets to Beuerlein’s own ceremonial toss before Sunday’s 11-1 rout of the host South Bend Silver Hawks by Bowling Green.

For the record, Beuerlein got the ball over the vicinity of the plate — not a strike but nothing close to a disaster.

“50 Cent was definitely in my head,” confessed Beuerlein, in town Sunday to sign autographs at a meet-and-greet event at the game.

“That’s why I took a couple of warm-up tosses on the side. I didn’t want to be one of those blooper-reel guys.”

Beuerlein, who also played shortstop in high school, actually had opportunities to play any of three sports — baseball, football and basketball — in college. And the shooting guard almost signed to play hoops before changing his mind and signing with Notre Dame in 1983 and then-coach Gerry Faust for football.

“There were discussions about me playing two sports at Notre Dame,” Beuerlein said. “But the second sport wouldn’t have been baseball. It was basketball. Digger (Phelps) used to tease me once in a while about coming out, and I was a really serious basketball player.”

And a pretty adept one, as well.

He played in the renowned Bookstore Basketball intracampus tournament three times, while at ND, sitting out as a sophomore following shoulder surgery. All three times his team made it to the Final Four.

As a junior, Beuerlein’s team won the title.

“We were supposed to win it my senior year too,” Beuerlein said. “We had Jim Dolan on our team, who played for Notre Dame and had just finished his senior season. But the team that beat us had Scott Hicks (another ND varsity player). I was trying to D him up, and he just kind of exposed me. We got a little dose of humble pie.”

The baseball experience was even more humbling, but Beuerlein admits much of that was his own undoing.

A “D” in biology class his sophomore year prompted Beuerlein’s father to pull him off the team that spring. As a senior, Beuerlein said his girlfriend talked him out of playing that spring.

“No, she’s not my wife now,” he laughed. “She’s long gone. I fired her after I realized I made a mistake there.”

His current wife, Kristen, is helping him raise the couple’s four children, who range in age from a junior in high school to a second-grader. All of them, two boys and two girls, have a passion for sports, though none of them love football the way that their father does.

Football loved him back for 17 seasons after he spent three years under Faust at ND and his senior year under coaching icon Lou Holtz.

His best pro season, and his only Pro Bowl berth came 13 season after being drafted in the fourth round by the then-L.A. Raiders and four years after Jacksonville plucked him with the first pick of the 1995 expansion draft.

In his fourth year with Carolina, the fifth of six teams Beuerlein would suit up for in the NFL, the 6-foot-3, 220-pounder led the NFL with 4,436 passing yards in 1999.

Beuerlein, who has since relocated by to his native Southern California, has continued his passion for football as a television football analyst for CBS Sports, covering both NFL and college games at times, though he feels he’s moving toward a crossroads.

“It’s a great opportunity I have for CBS,” he said. “I’ve been doing it for 11 years now, an it is really hard to climb unless something happens to the guys in front of you. And even then, there’s always a big name that they’re trying to get in, get them in the mix.

“I’m kind of at the bottom of the totem pole. I didn’t think I’d still be there after 11 years. I’m a little bit frustrated with that, but I love doing it. I enjoy doing it. But there comes a point in time where you’ve got to evaluate whether you’re going to ever get where you really want to get with it and if it’s worth the commitment.

“For now, I’m in. I want it to work out. I want to continue trying to take advantage of my opportunities. Whether I’m doing it five years from now, I don’t know.”

What he does know is that five years from now — and five days from now for that matter — he’ll be following the fortunes of his alma mater in football. Even with a demanding analyst schedule, he makes it back to campus for one game a year.

Here are Beuerlein’s thoughts on a variety of topics pertaining to ND football:

On the state of the Irish: “I have no doubt the program is in the best hands possible with (head coach) Brian Kelly. He is the right guy for the job. I love what he’s doing. They were dealt a tough hand last year with what happened with (quarterback) Everett (Golson), and I think that was probably worth two games for them, in my opinion.

“That’s not a knock on Tommy (Rees). Everett has a dynamic to him that they were missing last year.

“I think the defense last year underachieved. They’ve made a few changes. We’ll see what the defense does. I know it’s going to be an aggressive, attacking, blitzing defense that should be a lot more fun to watch.

“We’ll see how it works out, but I think the team’s going to be noticeably better this year, just by having Golson on the field, I think they’ll be a better football team.

On how Kelly can keep the QB competition between Golson and sophomore Malik Zaire from becoming a divisive force in the locker room: “You’ve got to be a great coach, and Brian Kelly, I think, fits that description very well.

“I think all coaches don’t want their players to get too comfortable, because then you get complacent. and you start kind of taking things for granted. Now if you have Andrew Luck or Peyton Manning or one of those once-in-a-lifetime kind of quarterbacks where there is no doubt he’s your starting quarterback, that’s a different animal. Who are you trying to kid?

“Is the coach going to try to say with a straight face that Andrew Luck has to compete for a starting quarterback job? That’s not going to happen.

“So in a case like this, Everett Golson in my opinion is undoubtedly the starting quarterback, and I think the team understands that. Brian Kelly even admits it that, but he’s still trying to guard against Everett Golson being too comfortable.

“This is a guy who played in a national championship game a couple of years ago, was still a very young quarterback at that time, was doing a lot of very, very impressive things on the field. I think he’s bigger and stronger than he was back them.

“He’s more experienced. He’s going to be more committed to taking advantage of his opportunities since it was taken away from him last year. I don’t think there’s any doubt that Everett Golson is the starting quarterback.”

On reintegrating spring-semester academic casualty DaVaris Daniels, and Golson, the latter of whom missed the 2013 season: “We definitely had guys that were in that situation that did either drop out and not make it back or did make it back.

“I can’t remember who those guys were. I’ve been hit in the head a lot of times since then. So my memory is a little shaky on that. But I know we had several guys in the course of my four years that we did have in that similar situation.

“From the standpoint of coming back, if they’re guys that are good team guys, that the players and coaches were sad to lose — I think that’s the case with Everett Golson and (Daniels) — they will be welcomed back with open arms, because they were willing to pay the price in order to get back into Notre Dame.

“It shows what Notre Dame means to them; shows that they want to be a part of that tradition and that family; and that they missed their teammates and that they really realized they made a mistake.

“So there won’t be any problem at all of reintegrating them back into it. If anything, the (teammates) will appreciate the effort they made to get back into the good standing that they’re in now.” 

On the academic demands at ND: “Guaranteed, over the course of four years, almost every student-athlete’s going to have significant academic challenges. But the university is very well-equipped to provide tutors and study hall and the things that those students need to get through in most cases.

“Now there’s always going to be one or two or three or four guys every year that are going to drop by the wayside, that aren’t going to be able to find a way to get through it. I’m happy to see these guys found a way to get themselves back in and realize that a degree from Notre Dame is really, really something special and will open up a lot of door down the road for them.”


Twitter: @hansenNDInsider

Former Notre Dame quarterback Steve Beuerlein autographs a mini Notre Dame helmet for Landon Weist,6, at Four Winds Field on Sunday. (SBT Photo/MIKE HARTMAN)