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Knute Rockne - Coach and Legend of Notre Dame

Knute Kenneth Rockne was born on March 4, 1888 in Voss, Norway. He first moved to Chicago at the age of 5. Nobody liked him there, and he was in many fi ghts. Before football or even baseball, Knute discovered skiing. He loved it, a nd went skiing every chance he got during the winter. Knute was a natural athlet e, and excelled in all of the sports he tried. He excelled in track, making a na me for himself later on.

Although he was always one of the shortest guys around, Knute was one of the toughest. The only protective gear he ever wore was adhesive tape that he s tuck to his ears to prevent them from being torn off. Knute often said "Show me a good and gracious loser and I'll show you a failure."

Knute discovered the great game of football at the age of 7. He played i n games against other teams his age. The team he played on was called the Tricky Tigers. All of the teams were "sandlot" teams. Knute could not get enough of th e sport. He praticed every chance he got. In fact, the other boys thought him cr azy for practicing so much. This obsession almost got him an education. Knute ne ver made the starting team until he was a senior, so he played on the scrubs tea m.

At the same time, Knute tried playing many other sports. His school atte ndance slipped and his grades became mediocre. Persistence paid off, and after 3 years on the scrubs, Knute finally made it to the starting football team. After this successful senior football season, it was time for him to leave high schoo l. It was a wonder that he got into Notre Dame with his high school record.

At the age of 22, Rockne decided that he wanted to fulfill a dream. That dream was to become a pharmacist and to eventually own his own drug store. Two of Knute's friends gained acceptance to a small college in South Bend, Indiana c alled Notre Dame. Knute decided to try to get into this same school, although h is high school grades were dismal. He was accepted, but his parents were not fon d of the idea of him going to a Catholic school, as they themselves were practic ing Lutherans. However, they did not forbid him to go. Interestingly, Notre Dame was not Rockney's first college choice. For years he had saved and planned to g o to the University of Illinois. Knute had not even planned on playing football in college. That decision would have resulted in a very different future for Knu te. Basically, Knute's decision to go to Notre Dame was an economic one; it was much cheaper than U.I.

While working during college to earn his way, Knute got a course in memo ry training, which would later become a valuable asset in his coaching career. A picture at this time revealed a cocky young man whose sparse hair made him appear more like a young professor

than a college freshman. Knute made friends with the future quarter back Gus Dor ais. They would be roommates through all 4 years of college, and took vacations together during school breaks.

Rockne didn't make the varsity squad until his third year. There were ma ny theories about why this was. Some said he was too short and caused too many t urnovers as a freshman. Whatever the reason, Knute palyed on the scrubs for two years. A new coach entered the picture by his junior year and gave Knute a chanc e at the end position. Everyone knows what he did from there. (If you don't alre ady, you will!) In his career at Notre Dame, Knute averaged a 92 grade point av erage. In his senior year of college, he was still determined to become a pharma cist. He had no intention of becoming a coach!

Rockne did not invent the forward pass - he revolutionized it! During a summer break form school, Gus and Knute decided to fool around with The forward pass. Knute got an idea telling Gus "What if you hold the football closer to thi s end?" Gus tried it and was astonished by the outcome. He could actually contro l the speed and accuracy of the ball! After that, Gus discovered something he wa nted Knute to do. Instead of letting the ball come to him and hit him in the che st, he instructed Knute to catch it with his hands in full stride. Gus then proc eeded to deliver the ball to Knute in this fashion, and the idea worked. Sure en ough, Knute caught the ball without missing a step. Knute Rockne had perfected t he art of relaxing your hands to catch the ball. He also invented pass patterns. Notre Dame brought this new arsenal to their playbook in the biggest game of the year against Army. Army was heavily favored in this game. The "fighting Iris h" came out with their usual ground attack for 7 plays, with Rockne out with a l eg injury. Rockne came out to the huddle and told Gus it was time. Rockne went i n, hitting the OB and ran a beautiful pattern. Gus delivered the ball right on t arget and Rockne scored on a 25 yard toss. Everyone was awed by this sequence of events. Notre Dame went into halftime leading 14-13. They came out in the 2nd h alf and boom, boom, one pass after another they marched down the field like a st eam roller. Seven completions went to Knute. The Irish trounced Army with a 35-1 3 victory, in what would become known as the game that revolutionized football. In his autobiography, Rockne said that this victory inspired the development of Notre Dame spirit.

After the game, Gus and Knute held clinics to teach the forward pass, an d many came to learn a spectacular art form. Football was no longer a sport of p hysical being, but more of a science which anyone could master. After the victor y against Army, Knute decided to stay at N.D. and become a teacher. This was bec ause he loved all the people so much. He would not stay long though, for he stil l grasps on dream of becoming a pharmacist. In Rockne's deal he would be teachin g chemistry and take the job of assistant coach of the football team. His salary was $2,400 per year.

From the first practice Rockne displayed a skill as a strategist. He fou nd many new ways to run plays and confuse the opposition. When Harper(the head c oach) retired, Rockne took the prestigious job of head coach of ND. His salary w as increased to $5,000 a year. It was at this time that he loosened his grip on becoming a pharmacist and decided to devote his life to football.

From day one Rockne's goal was to establish ND as a national sports powe r. Rockne once said about coaching, "We can all be geniuses, because one definit ion of genius is the infinite capacity for taking pains. Perfection in petty det ail is most essential".

George Gipp was a freshman thinking of dropping out of school. Rockne fo ud him drop-kicking 52 yard field goals on the campus's practice grounds. Knute invited him to tryout for the team. In his first season the Gipper' kicked a 62 yard field goal, scored three game clinching touchdowns, and had a total of 480 yards in one game versus Army. He was considered to be the best player that Rock ne had ever recruited. Gipp was a notorious fellow for gambling and cutting clas s. Still, the team team and Knute immortilized him. Gipp died of complications f rom pneumonia during the 1920 season. In his final game, althuogh very ill, he r emarkably threw two touchdowns versus NW.

"Eight years later, as the Irish battled a seemingly invincible Army tea m, Rockne shook his team with quiet locker room speech that was immortalized by sport writer Grantland Rice. "I've got to go, Rock," said Rockne, Imitating the dying man's gestures. "It's alright. I'm not afraid. Sometimes, Rock, when thing s are wrong and the breaks are beating the boys, tell them to go in there with a ll they've got and win one just for the Gipper. I don't know where I'll be then, Rock, but I'll know about it. And I'll be happy."

The Irish ran out of the room and played hardnosed football. The final s core was 12-6 in Notre Dame's favor, and the New York daily News ran perhaps its most famous headline: Gipp's Ghost Beat Army."

He never used the same speech twice on his lads. He had a showman's inst inct for when to say what to get his troops fired up. His motto was "Practice, P ractice, Practice! Practice makes perfect and perfect practice makes a winning t eam."

One of his most innovative ideas was the Notre Dame Shift'. This was whe n the entire backfield would move all to oneside of the ball before the ball was snapped. This really screwed up the defenders and it worked a lot for ND.

"Knute was the most innovative and charismic coaches of his era."

The Cleavland Press called him "the Buffalo Bill of his generation." In his last game as coach he defied his doctors orders and went to the field. The players looked on in horror when the man they thought might die in front of them told them to win or watch him die. Rockne ended his career with the greatest al l time % of .881: 105 wins,12 losses, 5 ties, 6 national championships and 5 und efeated seasons. Rokne tragically died in a plane crash a the age of 43. Studeba ker named a car after him and the U.S. government named a ship after him. Will R

ogers put it best when he said, " It takes a big calamity to shock a country all at once, but Knute, you did it. You died one of our national heroes. Notre Dame was your address, but every gridiron in america was your home."(needs to be pro ofread)