What they've said about Tyrone Willingham

Author: Notre Dame News

*High praise for new Notre Dame football coach



  • (’75 Notre Dame grad., former Stanford provost, current National Security Advisor)

“Tyrone is a very strong person who cares about his players as students and athletes. The players who play for him respond to his leadership and become better people because of what Tyrone is about and how he molds them. He really believes in the mantra of student-athlete.

“I remember as a student at Notre Dame that Notre Dame cares first and foremost about people and so does Tyrone. He also will be a success because he cares about excellence on the field and has high expectations. He is someone who has so many intangibles and will be an excellent fit at Notre Dame.

“As a college coach, it’s good to have tremendous ability as a teacher. He has the ability to mold young players with great ability and those with not-so-great ability into tremendous players by the time their careers were over.

“He will be good with the alumni and someone Notre Dame will be very proud of.”

(president and CEO of the Cleveland Browns, formerly with San Francisco 49ers)

“When you spend time with Tyrone Willingham , you get the impression that he has some of the qualities that distinguish him as a field general and yet at the same time you’d feel comfortable with him sharing your foxhole. I have four children who have graduated from Notre Dame and I describe it as a very special place that has very special people that accomplish some very special things and Tyrone Willingham fits into that environment.

“He is a student of the game of football and understands sportsmanship and yet he hasn’t seemed to have compromised himself for the relentless desire to compete and win. Everything he does seems to cause whoever is in his company—-whether it’s a spectator or competitor—to feel that this is a person they respect.

“I’ve been around him at a dinner table, in a board room, in professional settings and in close proximity to his posts as a football coach, and from all of those encounters he can be summarized as being a winner.

“If I’m a parent from any level of society and Tyrone Willingham sits down at my kitchen table, talking to me about what it will do for my son in becoming a member of the Notre Dame family, there’s no question where my son is going to school. A parent could not put a young man in better hands.”

(Minnesota Vikings head coach, former Stanford head coach)

“I think Tyrone is an ideal selection for Notre Dame. He has the great combination of being demanding and understanding, and I think that he is going to help the players reach their goals-and that’s what it’s all about. He brings the mindset that achieving is something that everyone can accomplish. He is going to coach all the players at Notre Dame, not just the guys who were considered a top 20 player in the country, which there are never enough of. He is going to coach every single player they have and, as a result of that, he’s going to develop every single player they have. And that is going to make them a very successful program.”

(Notre Dame board of trustees member, former ND All-American defensive back in 1981 and ’82, currently first vice president of the Notre Dame National Monogram Club)

“When you look at Tyrone Willingham , here is somebody that’s the only two-time Pac-10 coach of the year at Stanford, he’s coached several All-Americans and a wide variety of positions, and he always knew that he wanted to be a head coach and has done it with great success. He’s been a competitor in everything that he’s ever done and the bottom line is that the guy knows competition and he knows it well.

“He’s also quite a student of the x’s and o’s and has been a student of the west coast offense that so many of the pro teams are playing-and he’s committed to helping our kids at Notre Dame go to that next level.

“Of course it’s been well documented how devoted Tyrone has been committed to the total idea of the student-athlete and he knows what it takes to find individuals who can excel in that type of environment. But he also is looking for tough guys. I’m excited. After sitting and talking with him, it was very evident that he knows a great deal about football.

“Without question, he’s one of the top college coaches today and he brings his own brand name-and when you couple that with Notre Dame, you know great things are going to happen. There will be great recruiting classes and lots of wins and a national championship in the foreseeable future. The likes of Carmen Policy and Denny Green would not go out on a limb unless Tyrone Willingham is that type of coach and that’s what they’re speaking to. He’s a proven guy that has competed with players having 1,200 SATs while going to four bowl games, including the Rose Bowl. It speaks volumes that he inherited a program that was at the bottom of the Pac-10 and rose to the ranks of champion.”

(Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach, worked with Willingham at Minnesota Vikings)

“I’ve known Tyrone for a long time, going back to the days when I was a quarterback at the University of Minnesota and he was at Michigan State. One of the first things that stands out about Tyrone is his approach to things and his personal dedication and that rubs off on his players. He also has the ability to communicate to anybody as a player, whether it be a Hall of Fame running back like Roger Craig, a rookie trying to make the team or a high school senior during the recruiting process. He’s just a very focused and goal-oriented person who is a success at anything that he does.

“When I think about Notre Dame and the things that it stands for, to me that’s what Tyrone is about as well. He sets high goals and expects excellence both on and off the field. I think that he is going to be a great fit. It’s good for Notre Dame to get someone that everyone can look to as a leader, who knows the game of college football inside and out, and who is well-respected by everyone he comes in contact with.”

(former Stanford All-American, current Minnesota Vikings linebacker)

“Obviously coach Willingham means a lot to me. He is a great coach and Notre Dame is very lucky to have him and he’s going to do great things there. I am sad to see him leave Stanford because he means so much to everyone involved with Stanford. He’s going to come in and create a lot of discipline, but it’s not the overbearing discipline, it’s the kind of discipline that every player wants. He really gets the most out of all of his players. At Notre Dame he is going to have the top, elite athletes and is going to be able to recruit all the type of players he is going to want. It’s a good fit for Notre Dame and I wish him all the best.”

TROY WALTERS (former Stanford All-American, current Minnesota Vikings wide receiver)

“I think it’s a great hire. Coach Willingham is probably the top coach in the country. He gets his players to play hard. He gets the best out of his guys on and off the field. With him going to Notre Dame, where he can get better athletes than he can at Stanford, he’s going to be successful and turn that program around.”

(Florida State associate A.D. for compliance, president of Black Coaches Association, former Notre Dame player and 1972 graduate)

" Tyrone Willingham is an outstanding choice, not only because he is an outstanding coach but also because he is an outstanding individual in terms of who he is and how he has been able to make the most out of his football players at Stanford in terms of being true student-athletes. In terms of what Notre Dame stands for, he exactly fits the bill in how he views the term student-athlete.

“His track record for graduating student-athletes is outstanding and he will be just as successful in that regard at Notre Dame. With this hire, the opportunity to turn the Notre Dame fortunes around will become very much a reality, given his work ethic and talents in terms of recruiting. And his game-time preparation is really second-to-none.

“I think this a great day. Notre Dame has stepped forward in taking a position as a leader in college athletics, something that Notre Dame always has been known for in its history. This is a classic example of taking the initiative and showing leadership by making this appointment. Hopefully it sets a tone that a lot of outstanding minority coaches are out there – Tyrone Willingham is just one of many. Perhaps it will set the tone for other universities to give consideration to other worthy minority candidates.

“I give exceptional kudos to Kevin White for believing in Tyrone and giving him every opportunity to be the right candidate. Kevin stepped forward and looked to make the best hire while not letting color be an issue. I salute him for the hire.”

(former Notre Dame athletic director, former president of the NCAA)

“This is a terrific hire and makes a great statement for Notre Dame. If you check the Stanford coaching records during the past 50 years, you will see that Tyrone Willingham has done a tremendous job at a school where that level of football success is not necessarily part of the tradition. And he also has been doing something that is very important at Notre Dame and that is graduating players who go on to be wide-reaching successes in their postgraduate lives.

“The fact that Tyrone is an African-American is a tremendous statement for Notre Dame to be making. The important thing in any job search is to end up hiring the right person that you feel totally comfortable with. Kevin White made a similar great hire with basketball coach Mike Brey and he and Tyrone are not that unlike in personality. They are not ‘show-boaty’ but are very solid people and conduct themselves in the way that Notre Dame looks for in all its coaches.”

(Baltimore Ravens head coach, worked with Willingham at Stanford and Minn.Vikings)

“Tyrone is as fine a coach and person as any that I have ever worked with. He has all of the qualities that Notre Dame has been highlighting as prerequisites for that job. He brings a unique balance between being so demanding of his players but by the same token they know he cares about them and has their best interests in mind, and that’s why they respond to him as they do. This is a great hire for Notre Dame. College football needs people like Tyrone Willingham .”

(Central Michigan athletic director, head football coach at CMU from 1978-93)

“We were fortunate to have Tyrone on our staff early in his career, as our secondary coach, and we enjoyed some strong seasons during that two-year time period. He is an outstanding coach and disciplinarian. What I remember seeing most in him was that burning desire to excel. He always has high expectations and they start with himself. From day one, you had the sense that he was special. With all of the exciting things that have happened to him in his career, he has remained the same in terms of always being accessible. The experience of being a success has never changed his personality. Certainly he has matured but he has maintained that strong base and foundation that defines his character. What he brings to Notre Dame is what all programs want: credibility. He has all the things it takes to be successful. I’m confident that he understands what’s involved with this challenge and I just have great respect for him as a person and as a coach.”

(Stanford Athletic Director)

“I have supported Tyrone Willingham in all decisions he has made over the last seven years as Stanford’s head coach and I support him in his decision to become the new head football coach at Notre Dame. Tyrone has done a fabulous job during his tenure at Stanford and we know that he will continue the great tradition at Notre Dame. He is a man of integrity, moral character, is very committed to the student-athlete and is a great football coach. He will do a wonderful job in leading the Notre Dame football program. We wish him and his family nothing but the best in South Bend.”

(Stanford Provost)

“Stanford is very sorry to see Tyrone Willingham leave, but at the same time, we wish him the very best as he takes on new challenges at Notre Dame. Coach Willingham has been successful at Stanford because while developing a top-notch program he never lost sight of his commitment to his players as students and human beings. It is that kind of character and integrity that makes him such an excellent coach and speaks so well of Notre Dame’s choice. We wish him and his family every possible success in this new endeavor.”

(Stanford defensive coordinator)

“… (Tyrone’s) very witty, but he doesn’t show a lot of that to his team, or even his staff. He’s a lot of fun, but the way he comes across to the media and the team and even the alumni, he can appear (a different) way. It’s his coach face. … Kids trust him and that’s a motivation in itself. He’s not one of those guys to get up and yell and rah-rah. He’ll put his points on the overhead (projector) and tell them what they need to do to win. …”

(former Stanford linebacker)

“I’ve never seen a man as focused and determined as he is.”

(former Stanford cornerback)

“He’s a very good person outside of football, someone you don’t hesitate to go to when you need advice. He’s down to earth.”

(former Stanford receiver)

“I couldn’t ask for anything more in a coach. He demands as much of himself as he does of us. We love playing for him.”

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