By: Frank Pomarico (ND 1970-1973, Team Captain and National Champion, 1973)
I remember my mother always encouraged me to dream and to dream big. That was great advice because, if a person doesn’t have a dream, they in a lot of ways die, emotionally and spiritually. The idea of developing a dream and reaching it keeps many people on a very productive life path.
When we decide what our dream is, we need to set goals, small goals and big goals. That becomes the map to reach what we dream of in life.
Let me give you an example of a dream I had as a young teenager. I wanted to play football at the University of Notre Dame for Ara Parseghian. I was a husky teenager,13 years old growing up in Queens, New York when Notre Dame was playing Michigan State in 1966. My dad and I were watching on television and he was excited about the football game. Notre Dame was a Catholic University and had a young coach named Ara Parseghian who was close to winning the National Championship. The game ended in a tie, but my dad couldn’t stop talking about Notre Dame and Ara Parseghian.
There was a young man from my high school that was going to Notre Dame the next year. His name was Larry DiNardo. Larry was everyone’s favorite young man. Great student, great athlete and socially very mature. After his Senior year, Larry who was a team Captain, was selected as a consensus All-American guard.
My father said to me, “wouldn’t it be great if you could go to Notre Dame like Larry?” That comment stuck in my mind and I said to myself, “If my father thinks Notre Dame is so great maybe I should make my dream playing at Notre Dame.”
So, I developed some goals to reach my dream.
My father and I would talk about what it would take to play at Notre Dame and one of the goals was to get big and strong. So, my dad and I started a weight lifting program. Three times a week we would go into the basement of our house where we had a set of weights and trained hard. I wanted to get as strong as I could.
Slowly but surely, I got stronger and bigger.
I played football at St. Francis Prep in Brooklyn, New York and continued to condition myself, running and lifting until my senior year when I accomplished another goal. I was named an All-City, All-Star.
During those years at St. Francis Prep I was coached by the Franciscan Brothers. There was one coach, Brother Owen Capper, who helped show me the path to success by setting my thoughts on never quitting, never giving up. It has stuck with me until this day.
My dream came into focus when I was recruited to play at Notre Dame, by the great Ara Parseghian. I was about the same size as Larry DiNardo when he was a senior at St. Francis and they took a chance with me. They gave out 41 scholarships that year and I was number 41.
When I went to Notre Dame, the freshman players couldn’t play. I studied what Larry DiNardo was doing as a senior and learned a lot about how to succeed. A person has to want to succeed and be driven to his dreams and goals.
My sophomore year was 1971 and I made the starting team. The only sophomore to start the first game that year. I played at left guard for three years at ND and was named one of the captains my senior season.
In my senior year 1973, we played in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama for the National Championship. Alabama was number one going into the game and we beat them, in a game that turned out to be a classic.
The lead changed seven times. The game came down to a huge play with 2:00 left in the game. We were backed up to our own end zone at the three-yard line and our quarterback Tommy Clements completed a 36-yard pass to Robin Weber to seal the victory.
Not only did I achieve my dream of playing football for Ara Parseghian at Notre Dame, but I was a Captain of a national championship winning team.
Develop pride, discipline, loyalty. Set some goals and dream BIG.
Because, YOU can make your dreams come true.
Frank Pomarico was born in Howard Beach, New York and lives in South Bend today. After starting at left guard for three years at ND, he was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in 1974, and played in the Canadian Football League from 1975-1978. He is the author of the 2015 book, Ara’s Knight’s: Ara Parseghian and the Golden Era of Notre Dame Football, a moving memoir he penned along with co-author Ray Serafin. Frank has agreed to occasionally contribute to Fighting Irish Preview by writing about lessons he has learned from his life as a Notre Dame Football player. Look for more installments of Captain’s Corner, on Fighting Irish Preview.