BLUE & GOLD
April 12, 2007
Every Play, Every Day
Next to my family, my experiences as a Notre Dame Football
coach gave me the greatest memories of my life. Each
young guy that walked into my office was a new and
unique chapter in that book of memories. Some were
high school All-Americans destined to be familiar
names in the National Football League, while some
came in with a dream of that consisted of simply
wearing that distinctive gold helmet, and maybe,
just maybe, run down that tunnel into the blue autumn
sky once during their career at Notre Dame.
By history the second group mentioned
is referred to as "walk-ons."
In all candor, I tried not to separate the two categories.
To me, they were all Notre Dame football players. However,
the fact is that there is just a certain mystique about
the walk-ons in that everyone wants to know their particular
story or perhaps what motivated these young men to
seek a path that is just so difficult and at times
can be disheartening.
One such young man was Tim O'Neill.
In stature he probably would have
been an immediate "cut." But
the fact is there was no measuring device to permit
one to know the true size of his heart.
His book Every Play, Every Day is a personal account
of his experiences from the day he walked into my office
to become a Notre Dame football player until the day
he walked across the stage at The Joyce Center as a
Notre Dame graduate.
It is indeed a compelling story and a must read for
anyone that ever thought of walking on at Our Lady's
School or anyone who happens to love the unique culture
that is Notre Dame Football.
South Bend Tribune
Article published Oct 20, 2006
Former walk-on's book no Rudy tale
Early in his book about the experience of being a football
walk-on, recent ND graduate Timmy O'Neill explains
that he thought about naming his work, "No,
Not Like Rudy."
O'Neill, he explains, came to Notre Dame to play and
contribute, not just to run through the tunnel and
wear the uniform. But that doesn't mean he doesn't
have a little Rudy Ruettiger in him, evidenced by
his sometimes obsessive single-mindedness.
In the course of his narrative O'Neill admits to being "neurotic" about
his training, such as when he drops to the floor at
a South Bend movie theater and blitzes through a quickie
workout of sit-ups and push-ups.
"I think I should have forced myself
to go out more," O'Neill
admits in one candid moment, "not to drink, but
just to share time with my friends."
Play Every Day" isn't a book about
regrets. It is about sacrifices, and an attempt to
realistically portray the ups and downs of life as
a non-scholarship player in a demanding Division
I-A football program . O'Neill, a 2003 ND graduate
works in the financial world in Houston, will be
selling and signing copies of the book (Expert Publishing
$16.95) from 11 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Eck
Center on the Notre Dame campus.
It is a book that has been a young lifetime in the
making, as O'Neill fell hard for Notre Dame from
an early age.
He finally began putting pen to paper after he graduated
three years ago with a major in finance and a minor
in theology, and was able to sell the idea to the
first publisher he contacted, tiny Expert Publishing
Inc. in Andover, Minn.
"Really the only reason I wrote the
book wasn't to tell a story about Tim O'Neill," he
was to tell a story about setting goals and believing
in yourself when other people have expectations of
you."I just think everyone has faced the question
of, 'Should I quit or should I keep going because I
believe I can do this?' Most of my teammates could
have written a book on their own about the lessons
Notre Dame football taught them. Obviously my story
and my perception of Notre Dame is going to be different,
but the lessons and the themes are the same."
O'Neill was a standout running back for his high school
in Troy, Mich., but wasn't interested in playing
for a small college and instead set his sights on
Notre Dame, despite the fact that he is just 5-foot-6.
A fourth-generation "Domer," O'Neill fell
in love with the school and the football program
when Tim Brown ran back two punts for touchdowns
in the first game O'Neill ever attended, the 1987
contest against Michigan State.
When the future Heisman Trophy winner and NFL star
returned a letter from the young O'Neill, he was
hooked for life.
In "Every Play Every Day," O'Neill
recounts his five-year Notre Dame experience in abundant
He writes about running shuttle drills in a downpour
in New York City's Central Park in preparation for
an upcoming season, and about crying in front of an
assistant coach after a meeting about his role with
the team ends in stinging rejection.
There are also light-hearted moments
-- O'Neill runs from campus police after trying to
sneak into the
under-renovation administration building to take
pictures, and he marvels when former ND coach Tyrone
Willingham drops to the ground to join his players
in calisthenics in the first workout he leads."When
I started at Notre Dame," O'Neill said, "I
had no idea how hard I was going to work. After I
had played four years and only played in a couple
of games, if you had told me, 'You're going to play
at Notre Dame, you're going to work hard for four
years, you're gonna see the field for two plays,'
that's not a very rosy scenario, right?
"(But) it was a wonderful, wonderful
experience. Just to be a part of Notre Dame is an honor
and something you have for the rest of your life."
For all the
frustration O'Neill recalls throughout his book's 145
pages, the last few pages describe
a couple of well-earned moments of glory -- one coming
off the field on the first day of classes, the other
during one of the team's last games of the 2002 season.
pleased to hear that one of the teachers at his old
high school has been assigning the book
to students. Above all, he wants those kids and anybody
else who picks it up to understand that he didn't
attend Notre Dame because he wanted to play the role
"If ever I went to sleep at night
and I didn't think I was capable of playing football
at the Notre Dame
level," he said, "I wouldn't have done it."
Tribune Staff Writer