Last season ended on a sour note for Notre Dame Football by losing their last two games, including a rough 44-28 Fiesta Bowl loss to Ohio State where Butkus Award winner Jaylon Smith suffered a major knee injury. Head Coach Brian Kelly that shouldn’t slow down the Dallas Cowboys’ second round draft pick.
“As a football player, one of the most instinctive players that I’ve ever coached,” Kelly told The Jim Rome Show on Friday. “I mean Manti Te’o was probably one of the best football players that I ever coached on the defensive side of the ball. Tension for making plays, smart, instinctive. Jaylon Smith did that, but with more speed, more power, more acceleration just an incredible football player.
“Off the field, everything that you’d want in the community, high character and then his preparation. The great ones prepare like nobody else. So he’s got all those intangibles. If he’s fully healthy, maybe he’s the No. 1 pick in the draft and deservingly so. He’s going to come back from this injury; it’s a matter of time, whether it’s this year or next year. And they fitted him with a brace, even if he’s not at 100 percent, his 80 percent might be good enough to be the starter for the Cowboys this year.”
After the season, Kelly signed a six-year contract extension with Notre Dame, so Rome asked if this was the final coaching stop for the 54-year-old.
“I think so. I mean you never say never,” Kelly answered. “I did it with the express purpose that I wanted to be here at Notre Dame, and I wanted this to be where I coached my last game. So again, from my perspective, you never say never because things change. My desire was to be here at Notre Dame and to win a National Championship and to be here six years is longer than I thought I could make it here. So hopefully I could make it another six years that would be fine with me.”
However, Kelly did admit that when he accepted the head coaching job in 2009, it wasn’t at all what he expected.
“I had 19 years of head coaching experience, and I was not ready for the job in my first year or two,” Kelly said. “So it requires more than just your head on a swivel. All the experience that I had, you need to call on it when you’re at Notre Dame, because it can get a bit distracting. [I] feel very comfortable on the job right now and excited about getting started here this week.”
The 2012 AP College Football Coach of the Year also spoke about the biggest challenges he faced early on in his time in South Bend.
“You get easily distracted. There are so many other things that are pulling, whether it’s the alumni base or the expectations that you have as a representative of the University in so many different facets other than football,” Kelly said. “The number one reason you are here is for the kids, and you can’t forget that, and so the job sometimes has a tendency to pull you away from that, and so once you realize why you’re here and that is for your players, it makes it a whole lot easier.”