Former Notre Dame LB Kory Minor evolved beyond football

Bob Wieneke
South Bend Tribune

In the minutes leading up to his first college start, which also happened to be his first college game, a cocktail of emotions threatened to overtake Kory Minor. There was the obvious elation he was experiencing, but the jitterbugs/fear of messing up/realization that 60,000 people and a national TV audience were watching threatened to stifle his effectiveness.

And then, in the Notre Dame Stadium locker room before the Irish faced Northwestern to open the 1995 season, teammate and good buddy Robert Farmer posed a simple question.

"He says, 'Hey Kory, who's starting today?' I said, 'I am.'" Minor recalled. "And he paused for a minute and he said, 'Then go show 'em why.'"

Problem solved.

"Just those few words, he had no idea what that did for me because I was a basket case, a true basket case," Minor said this week. "Those few words he gave me totally, totally transformed me, and I went out there and had a pretty good game."

He's had a pretty good run of success since, too. Expectations for the USA Today Defensive Player of the Year as a high school senior may have been a bit lofty, but Minor was a four-year starter and team captain. He was a seventh-round draft choice of the San Francisco 49ers, and spent four seasons in the NFL with the Carolina Panthers.

It was what Minor did during his down time in the NFL that forged what he's today become. While some players were using their name to get to the front of the line in clubs, Minor was using his to schedule lunches with business leaders. While some were taking lengthy summer vacations, Minor was working internships.

"I always prided myself on being different than most athletes," the 37-year-old Minor said this week from his home in the Los Angeles area. "I wanted to learn the business side outside of football. I knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur."

That's what he is. Minor dabbled in business for a few years but has shifted his energies to running Kory Minor Industries. Motivational speaker, personal coach and author are among the caps he dons, with a good part of that credit being tossed the way of his alma mater.

"From a whole university standpoint they always took care of me. I was treated very well there. They were great to me, from the administration to the coaching staff, especially the student body, was nothing but superb to me," he said. "The place was so good to me. I'm thankful for being there because those four years really helped me become a man. I can do what I do now because of that place."

Minor has been married to his high school sweetheart, Lisa, herself a Notre Dame graduate, for 12 years, and the couple has three children, ages 9, 7 and 4. Minor last year made his first visit back to Notre Dame since graduating, and before he knew it was an occasional contributor to und.com, the school's athletic website. Among his thoughts on the Irish?

• On sophomore linebacker Jaylon Smith: "It's funny because I've been asked this quite a few times now in interviews. What I see is a long, rangy guy who can run sideline to sideline. I see a guy who's tenacious. I see a guy who doesn't try to be bigger than himself, plays within the framework of the defense and does what he's asked to do. He came in last year and did an outstanding job for the university and I expect nothing less this year."

• On the ongoing academic fraud investigation at ND that includes five football players: "I hope that it’s all not true. I hope that things come out and those guys are cleared. But at the end of the day, the university is a university that was built on integrity, and if you’re going to be there as a student-athlete, you have rules, and that’s the way it goes. So for me, at the end of the day I was disheartened by it but I hope it all works out for those guys and they can get back on the field, and more importantly back in the classroom and show the kind of students they are. You hate to hear that."

• On the external demands on the Notre Dame head coach and how Brian Kelly has handled them. Minor shared a story of being in Lou Holtz's office before practice and Holtz having to sign 1,000 footballs: "As a coach there your plate is full. It’s not just about X's and O's, it’s not just about making sure the players are doing well on the field and in the classroom. I think coach Kelly has welcomed that very well. I just know that people don’t know that role until you get into that role. People don't realize that for the head coach at Notre Dame it’s a lot more than X's and O's. He’s handled it very well. He’s done a great job. He’s been very professional about it. I believe he’s built the program for success."

• And Minor also had a sliver of advice for the Notre Dame freshmen who will make their college debuts this weekend. In fact, six true freshmen find their names on the defense's two-deep, although none are listed as starters.

"They're in for a rude awakening to college football because, no matter who we play, they're going to get their best," Minor said. "As long as they're fundamentally sound and stay within the framework of the defense, they'll be just fine.

"If I give them any type of talk or motivation, I would say at the end of the day, just be you."

Former Notre Dame linebacker Kory Minor (SBT File Photo)