Friday, September 30, 2005
Today's edition features something that happened last week, but was reported this week, so it qualifies. It involves a 10-year-old-boy's dying wish to the coach of his (and mine) favorite college football team (article in full):|
Charlie Weis doesn't usually let anyone else call plays on offense. He made an exception for 10-year-old Montana Mazurkiewicz.
The Notre Dame coach met last week with Montana, who had been told by doctors weeks earlier that there was nothing more they could do to stop the spread of his inoperable brain tumor.
"He was a big Notre Dame fan in general, but football especially," said his mother, Cathy Mazurkiewicz.
Weis showed up at the Mazurkiewicz home in Mishawaka, just east of South Bend, and talked with Montana about his tumor and about Weis' 10-year-old daughter, Hannah, who has global development delay, a rare disorder similar to autism.
He told Montana about some pranks he played on Joe Montana -- whom Montana was named after. Weis and former Irish running back Terry Eurick shared a suite, where Montana would visit.
"I gave him a chance to hammer me on the Michigan State loss, which he did very well. He reminded me of my son," said Weis, whose son, Charlie Jr., is 12 years old.
Weis said the meeting was touching.
"He told me about his love for Notre Dame football and how he just wanted to make it through this game this week," Weis said. "He just wanted to be able to live through this game because he knew he wasn't going to live very much longer."
As Weis talked to the boy, Cathy Mazurkiewicz rubbed her son's shoulder trying to ease his pain. Weis said he could tell the boy was trying not to show he was in pain.
His mother told Montana, who had just become paralyzed from the waist down a day earlier because of the tumor, to toss her a football Weis had given him. Montana tried to throw the football, put could barely lift it. So Weis climbed into the reclining chair with him and helped him complete the pass to his mother.
Before leaving, Weis signed the football.
"He wrote, 'Live for today for tomorrow is always another day,"' Mazurkiewicz said.
"He told him: 'You can't worry about tomorrow. Just live today for everything it has and everything you can appreciate,'" she said. "He said: 'If you're (in pain) today you might not necessarily be in pain tomorrow, or it might be worse. But there's always another day.'"
Weis asked Montana if there was something he could do for him. He agreed to let Montana call the first play against Washington on Saturday. He called "pass right."
Montana never got to see the play. He died Friday at his home.
Weis heard about the death and called Mazurkiewicz on Friday night to assure her he would still call Montana's play.
"He said, 'This game is for Montana, and the play still stands,'" she said.
Weis said he told the team about the visit. He said it wasn't a "Win one for the Gipper" speech, because he doesn't believe in using individuals as inspiration. He just wanted the team to know people like Montana are out there.
"That they represent a lot of people that they don't even realize they're representing," Weis said.
When the Irish started on their own 1-yard-line following a fumble recovery, Mazurkiewicz wasn't sure Notre Dame would be able to throw a pass. Weis was concerned about that, too. So was quarterback Brady Quinn.
"He said 'What are we going to do?'" Weis said. "I said 'We have no choice. We're throwing it to the right.'"
Weis called a play where most of the Irish went left, Quinn ran right and looked for tight end Anthony Fasano on the right.
Mazurkiewicz watched with her family.
"I just closed my eyes. I thought, 'There's no way he's going to be able to make that pass. Not from where they're at. He's going to get sacked and Washington's going to get two points,'" she said.
Fasano caught the pass and leapt over a defender for a 13-yard gain.
"It's almost like Montana was willing him to beat that defender and take it to the house," Weis said.
Mazurkiewicz was happy.
"It was an amazing play. Montana would have been very pleased. I was very pleased," she said. "I was just so overwhelmed. I couldn't watch much more."
Weis called her again after the game, a 36-17 victory by the 13th-ranked Fighting Irish, and said he had a game ball signed by the team that he wanted to bring to the family on Sunday.
"He's a very neat man. Very compassionate," she said. "I just thanked him for using that play, no matter the circumstances."