You know what it takes to win? Just look at my fist. When I make a fist, it’s strong and you can’t tear it apart. As long as there’s unity, there’s strength. We must become so close with the bonds of loyalty and sacrifice, so deep with the conviction of the sole purpose, that no one, no group, no thing, can ever tear us apart.
Ara Parseghian has been gone now for five years. His life spanned 94 years, from May 21,1923 to August 2, 2017. At Notre Dame from 1964-1974, he compiled a 95-17-4 record. He won National Championships in 1966 and 1973.
Those were the days.
A fellow writer on this site and Captain of Ara’s 1973 team, Frank Pomarico has compared the Era of Ara to Camelot, and Ara to King Arthur. All of his players were “Ara’s Knights”. Words to describe Ara? Pomarico comes up with the following: Intense, Disciplined, Intelligent, Prepared, Fair, Loyal, Charismatic.
A few months ago as I was facing some personal health challenges, I turned to Ara for inspiration and specifically talked to Pomarico about what I could learn from Ara to help deal with my situation. During the conversation at one point, Frank actually said to me, “Phil, you are one of Ara’s Knights.” Of course that title is honorary, but coming from a Captain of Ara’s great 1973 National Champion team, I never felt so honored in all my life.
I lived three blocks from the Parseghian’s while growing up. We use to see him walking the neighborhood and I have fond memories of knocking on Ara’s door for school fundraisers or on Halloween, actually any excuse would do. He was always really nice and I was always really in awe. So much in awe that Notre Dame and Notre Dame football became a vocation for me.
As successful as he was on the football field, Ara retired at the age of 51 and never coached again. Instead he dedicated his life to raising millions of research dollars to further research on a genetic disorder that three of his grandchildren died from.
Ara’s funeral at Sacred Heart Basilica and Memorial Service in the Joyce Center five years ago was attended by hundreds of his former players. I sat there that day, once again in awe as the outpouring of love and admiration and gratitude unfolded before my eyes. It was an emotional tribute to a man that left a lasting legacy to all those whose lives were touched by him. No, “touched” is not strong enough, changed would be a better word.
He certainly changed my life.
To this day, after every game I cover at Notre Dame Stadium, as I walk out the gate toward the parking lots, I stop at Ara’s statute and offer a prayer of thanks for the inspiration his life provided me.
Rest in Peace Ara.
Editor’s note: For more on Ara and Ara’s Era of Camelot in South Bend. Check out Frank Pomarico’s book Ara’s Knights.