In his newly released book Life as the Notre Dame Leprechaun: Behind the Face of the Fighting Irish, Daniel Colt Collins presents a never-before-seen insider's look into life at Notre Dame from his own first-hand perspective. From the nerve-racking anxiety of annual Leprechaun tryouts to the surging energy of Notre Dame Stadium on game days, Collins' book is full of stories that will give readers an idea of the passion Golden Domers feel for their team. Ultimately, his book is a love story about a place, its people and the joy that awaits all those who seize what life has to offer.
In this excerpt, Collins shares the energy he felt just moments before the first time he led the football team out of the tunnel and onto the field at legendary Notre Dame Stadium.
Game day began at 8 a.m. with Metallica's hardcore version of the Irish classic "Whiskey in the Jar" blasting from my alarm clock - my kind of wake-up call. I suited up while listening to some of my favorite Irish rock ballads from Flogging Molly, Dropkick Murphys, The Tossers, The Pogues, The Young Dubliners, and Shilelagh Law mixed in with tracks from the Band of the Fighting Irish. The cheerleaders assembled behind Alumni Hall at 9 a.m., and our marathon meet-and-greet tour got underway.
We made our way through the tailgate-filled parking lots into the Joyce Center. After performing for the former varsity-letter winners and their families inside the Monogram Club, we devoured their buffet. Recharged from a little down time away from the steamy sea of people outside, we jogged to the Nieuwland Science Center while chanting "Gooo Irish!" the whole way.
I led the cheerleaders in a "Hail Mary" before we ran through LaFortune Student Center, much to the surprise of the hungry fans waiting patiently in the serpentine Subway line coiled around the concourse. More fans mobbed us for the remainder of the fifteen minutes we had left until the Band of the Fighting Irish signaled the start of its Step-Off Parade from the Golden Dome to Notre Dame Stadium. Our venerated drum major blew his whistle, raised his ornate scepter, and away we went.
We walked through the main tunnel into an already-packed house, with the student section filling up at a steady pace... My most important pre-game task involved assembling the giant steel flagpole with fresh flakes of the same 24-karat gold used to paint our football helmets. I hooked it up to the monster blue and gold flag made from the same material as our team's football jerseys... Before I knew it, less than five minutes remained on the pre-game countdown clock - time to get into position for my big moment with the flag. Just then, Jerome Bettis and Tim Brown walked by. I casually said hello to my two favorite NFL players of all time. Only at Notre Dame.
"Go when the gold helmets hit the sun!" That's what the NBC cameraman yelled my way when he got in position to capture the football team in the tunnel...
The blazing Midwest summer sun beat down on the back of my neck. Beads of sweat gathered where my bowler hat met my brow, dripping in endless rows down my nose. I wiped my sweaty palms against my bright green knickers one at a time so I could readjust my grip on the slippery steel of the giant flagpole I held in my hands. Over 81,000 voices hushed in the ninety-degree heat, waiting to erupt on my cue. I could feel the weight of over 162,000 eyes bearing down on me. Only one thought filled my mind: "Don't trip!"
An entire herd of raging bulls in golden helmets filled the tunnel behind me, penned in by only a few coaches attempting to keep them at bay as they began to sway back and forth in nervous excitement. They personified the mounting anticipation that had built up all off-season. The entire stadium filled to the brim with an electric charge.
A flash of gold hit my eye as the players burst out of the tunnel into the sunlight, and I was off to the races. The explosion of the crowd came with far more force than I could have anticipated, nearly knocking me off my feet. I suddenly remembered my mantra, repeating, "Don't trip! Don't trip! Don't trip!" over and over in my head as I ran.
A tidal wave of energy swept me up as my feet barely grazed the ground for the entire 100-yard sprint down the field. Once I made it to the far end zone I triumphantly waved the Blue and Gold to our sellout crowd and millions more watching on TV... An inescapable smile spread across my face while I paused to take it all in.
A wildly unlikely journey had brought me to this unforgettable moment in my life, and an even more unbelievable story was about to unfold.
From the book, Life as the Notre Dame Leprechaun: Behind the Face of the Fighting Irish by Daniel Colt Collins. Copyright (c) 2013 Daniel Colt Collins. Published by CORBY BOOKS, a division of Corby Publishing, LP. Excerpted by permission.
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