20 questions with Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

Editor’s Note: In June, Eric Hansen conducted a one-on-one interview with Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly with some uncommon questions for the 2018 ND Insider Notre Dame Football Preview magazine.

1. How many days a year are you truly off the grid?

Brian Kelly: “None. You can never be off the grid. If something happens with a player, I have to be reachable.”

2. What was the last honey-do project you were tasked with that you actually did?

Kelly: “It was two days ago (June 18), taking care of my daughter, who had tonsil surgery; making sure my oldest son washed the boats; and clean a couple of stains on a couple of chairs. It was a divide-and-conquer situation with my wife, who was with our youngest son out of town.”

3. Favorite guilty pleasure (food)?

Kelly: “Pizza.”

4. Favorite yoga pose?

Kelly: “The Child’s Pose.”

5. Favorite rap song?

“I can’t give you one. I like some, but I couldn’t tell you the titles of any of them.”

6. Can you do an impression of anyone?

Kelly: “I can do (offensive line coach) Jeff Quinn. It’s more about the mannerisms, how he shakes your hand. We have a saying that You’ve Been Quinnered. and when you’ve been Quinnered, he’s talking your freaking ear off and he’s giving you that big handshake. He’s so good with recruits’ parents. They love that.”

7. Who’s the NFL coach who most intrigues you?

Kelly: “The young guy from the Rams, Sean McVay. Young guy, who’s really been able to step in and take that team over.”

8. Best piece of coaching advice that you DIDN’T take?

Kelly: “Don’t take the Central Michigan job.”

9. Where do you find your inspiration for your pregame speeches and what percentage of the players do you suppose remember any of them five minutes into the game?

Kelly: “I think they remember them all. The speeches are focused much more on mental cues that they should take into the game, that they could use throughout the entire game. Maybe it’s about breathing. Maybe it’s about focusing in on the bench when the coach comes over. That preparation is pretty standard. I know what I’m preparing for each and every week, and it falls within the mental edge. We have a mental performance coach, who I’ll touch base with (Amber Selking) and see if she’s seen some things during the week I should be aware of, but it’s ultimately my sense and feel as to what is needed.”

10. What went through your mind when Quenton Nelson lifted you off the floor and jubilantly shook you in the visitors’ locker room last fall at Michigan State?

Kelly: “That’s what it’s all about. The great part about it was it was so spontaneous. I actually, after the fact, when he put me down, I was glad he put me down so quickly, because he would have broken my ribs.”

11. What did you learn from the recruitment of Aaron Lynch years ago and his eventual decision to transfer?

Kelly: “We’ve recruited a couple of kids who’ve had similar profiles. You’d throw Alizé Mack in that group. Alizé hung in there and stuck it out. So I probably would have done it all over again, but probably would have enlisted a little bit more support from others to make it work.”

12. Who is the recruit, during your time at ND, that you weren’t sure about when he signed but who went on to far exceed your expectations?

Kelly: “There’s more to it than just what you do on the field. I would say (linebacker) Greer Martini. I was hesitant. Bob Diaco really liked him. He didn’t show anything to me, even with my time with him, but man he really impacted our program in a positive way.”

13. What do you do if a family serves you a meal on a recruiting trip that tastes like turpentine and/or sweat socks?

Kelly: “This is my 28th year doing this. So I try to avoid it by asking the assistant coach handling that prospect’s recruitment to really talk the family out of dinner when coach Kelly comes. That doesn’t always work. As a matter of fact, it’s a 50-50 proposition. So when confronted with a mom who wants to cook, you eat. and if it’s not that good, you just tell them, “I love the food, but I just had something at another house.”

14. When you recruited J.J. Watt to Central Michigan, before leaving for the Cincinnati job, did you really know what you had?

Kelly: “You never do. We knew we had somebody who was going to be really big physically, because he was skinny, long-armed. We just thought we had a potentially really good player on our hands.”

15. Have you ever needed subtitles when director of football performance Matt Balis was barking at your players?

Kelly: “No, because the messages are never negative comments. He’s always trying to get that next 2 percent. It’s always about a positive dialogue, so I don’t need to know every word that he’s saying. and that goes for our stretching. and speaking of stretching, nobody’s ever talked about this, but I had been having my players stretch the same way for 25 years. The hardest thing is to get somebody to break a routine like that, because it starts your practices and, in some instances, it starts your games. So when we talked about it, he said, “Well, you’re going to have to let me stretch them totally different then, and you’re just going to have to let me do it.” That was the hardest thing. It’s really interesting. Before last year, stretching became almost a waste of time.”

16. Have you ever got a suggestion for a play from a fan or friend that you used and it actually worked?

Kelly: “Not at Notre Dame. I get a lot of stuff in the mail, and there’s only one person who had any sense to it and that was (ND trustee) Jay Jordan. As in the Jordan Hall of Science. He gave me a suggestion on how to defend the triple-option, and some of his ideas had merit.”

17. Who’s the player on the current team who is destined to be a coach?

Kelly: “Alex Bars.”

18. What’s the way you’re most similar to the Brian Kelly who walked into his introductory press conference in December of 2009?

Kelly: “My passion for what I do. My love of coaching, and certainly on the big stage.”

19. What’s the way you’re most different from that version of yourself?

Kelly: “I just understand Notre Dame more.”

20. What do you miss most about Ara?

Kelly: “His level-headed comments during emotional times.”

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly’s favorite yoga pose is Child’s Pose.

Want to find out everything there is to know about the upcoming Irish football season? The ND Insider Notre Dame Football Preview has you covered! The magazine is a must for both casual and die-hard Notre Dame football fans.

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Profiles on Jerry Tillery's enhanced focus heading into his junior season, life after "The Catch" for wide receiver Miles Boykin, the evolution of Notre Dame's quarterback position and where freshman prodigy Phil Jurkovec may fit into that mix, the long journey to ND for first-year defensive coordinator Clark Lea and freshman defensive lineman Ja'mion Franklin's everlasting bond with his father.

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An exclusive one-on-one interview with ninth-year head coach Brian Kelly

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