Freeman: We are going to be 'the most competitive team Notre Dame has ever put on the field'
SOUTH BEND — During his first media interview since being named head football coach at Notre Dame, Marcus Freeman outlined his vision proclaimed that his Irish will "be the most competitive team Notre Dame has ever put on the field."
Freeman, whose hiring became official Friday morning, was attending No. 8 Notre Dame's Big Ten hockey game with No. 18 Ohio State — his alma mater — when he was introduced to the crowd during a break in the first period. He was seated in the stands below the O'Brien's hospitality suite with his wife Joanna and the couple's six children.
When he was introduced, Freeman rose, wearing his blue (road) Irish hockey jersey with the No. 22 and pulled on the "Notre Dame" on its front much to the delight of the crowd which cheered throughout the media break while the ice was being repaired.
The Irish student band chanted "Freeman Era" during the time when it wasn't playing the Notre Dame Victory March, and the rest of the crowd joined in.
During the first intermission, Freeman was interviewed on television by NBCSN's David Korzeniowski. Here's what Freeman has to say:
On the moment he met his team for the first time as head coach:
"I wish I could go back and relive that moment for years to come. I've been wanting to hug them for a long time. This was something ... we knew it was coming and I couldn't be around my guys. That's what was tough. Then finally the chance to be around them as their head coach was an unbelievable feeling that I'll remember for the rest of my life."
On what this week has been like:
"Whirlwind. Not a lot of sleep. I talked to a lot of people, but you have to do that in order to become the head coach at the University of Notre Dame. You realize when you go through this process how many people are impacted by this football program and how many special people impact our student-athletes on a daily (basis) and our university.
"It's been a whirlwind. It's been a lot of fun. I can't wait at some point maybe settle down and get a little bit of rest. But my focus right now is on our players, our football program and the future recruits of Notre Dame football."
On this year's team:
"They're a special group. To see where we've come from and from the first weekend at Florida State and to where we are now. We're an unbelievable football team. We are one of the best football teams in the country.
"We will see what happens after this weekend, but to me no committee, no rankings can really justify how good this team is. I can't wait to get with them a play one, two — how(ever) many game they give us the opportunity to play — that's what I look forward to."
On Selection Sunday:
"You got to start with a focus on us. What do we need to do to finish off this season the right way. When they tell us on Sunday who we're playing we'll start to transfer that focus to our opponent. But right now the focus is on us. We're going to enjoy tomorrow. We're going to get the chance to watch some other teams play and they're going to stress out a little bit. As we get to Sunday, let's figure out who our opponent is and start preparing for this final mission of the season."
On traits he wishes to instill into his team:
"I told them today that there are three things that we're going to be doing every single day. Number one is going to be a challenge-everything mentality. We're going to challenge each other, we're going to challenge the coaches, the coaches are going to challenge the players. That's where great things are built.
"Number two is unit strength. That's players turning into teammates. We're going to become a closer team.
"And number three is going to be the competitive spirit that we have. We are going to be the most competitive team that Notre Dame has ever put on the field. I'm looking forward to seeing this grow. We're a really, really good football team. This culture that we're going to continue to enhance is going to be a special thing."
On Notre Dame:
"I'm all in for Notre Dame. I've been all in for Notre Dame since the minute I stepped foot on this campus. You can't help yourself but to embrace this special place. Notre Dame will change you if you let it. That's why I'm thrilled to be the head coach here, because I know that I've been changed in 11 months being the defensive coordinator here.
"And for the rest of my coaching career I get a chance to be changed by Notre Dame every single day. I've embraced this place, we love this place, my family loves this place and I can't wait to see what the future holds."