What Marcus Freeman said at introductory press conference

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Marcus Freeman was introduced as Notre Dame’s 30th head football coach on Monday in an event that felt more like a celebration than an announcement. The marching band play, cheerleaders danced, an impressive stage was set out and legendary Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn played the role of master of ceremonies as Marcus Freeman was introduced.

The head coach offered an opening statement after being introduced and shared the following during his Q-and-A with the media in attendance. Here is everything new Notre Dame head football coach had to say:

Editor’s Note: a huge thank you goes out to the Notre Dame football public relations team for transcribing the entire press conference and quickly getting it turned around for our use!

Opening Statement (pt 1. of 3)

There’s a lot of people here. (Laughter).

All right. To Father John and Jack Swarbrick, I am forever grateful for this opportunity to lead this football program. I’m ready. I’m ready for this challenge, and I’m ready to lead this program to the greatest heights. The chance to lead the football program at the University of Notre Dame is an opportunity of a lifetime, and I would never take that for granted. Being this leader of this program, it isn’t about one person, and it never will be. Being the leader of this program is about understanding to be successful on this journey, it’s going to take others, and we’re going to have to do this as a team.

That’s why doing it at the University of Notre Dame is so special. It’s special because of the people. The people here make this opportunity special. The people that are currently here — the students, the faculty, the countless other people that step on this campus, the people that have come through Notre Dame and have planted themselves throughout the world, the Notre Dame network that at any moment for any reason will find you a solution. The players. I was looking for a term to describe you, and Katie helped me come up with one that really, really exemplifies what you are. You’re exceptional thinkers. You’re exceptional thinkers. You never look for the easy path. You never take short — most of you never take shortcuts. (Laughter.) You’re tireless workers, and you’re committed to excellence in everything you do. And that’s what separates you.

Opening Statement (pt. 2 of 3)

There’s a lot of people here. (Laughter). All right. To Father John and Jack Swarbrick, I am forever grateful for this opportunity to lead this football program. I’m ready. I’m ready for this challenge, and I’m ready to lead this program to the greatest heights. The chance to lead the football program at the University of Notre Dame is an opportunity of a lifetime, and I would never take that for granted. Being this leader of this program, it isn’t about one person, and it never will be. Being the leader of this program is about understanding to be successful on this journey, it’s going to take others, and we’re going to have to do this as a team. That’s why doing it at the University of Notre Dame is so special. It’s special because of the people. The people here make this opportunity special. The people that are currently here — the students, the faculty, the countless other people that step on this campus, the people that have come through Notre Dame and have planted themselves throughout the world, the Notre Dame network that at any moment for any reason will find you a solution. The players. I was looking for a term to describe you, and Katie helped me come up with one that really, really exemplifies what you are. You’re exceptional thinkers. You’re exceptional thinkers. You never look for the easy path. You never take short — most of you never take shortcuts. (Laughter.) You’re tireless workers, and you’re committed to excellence in everything you do. And that’s what separates you. Over the past few days, I’ve spoken to a lot of leaders that I respect for any advice on being a first time head coach, and the answer has all been the same. Just be you. So who is Marcus Freeman? Well, I’m the son of a man who was in the Air Force for 26 years. I’m the son of a woman who was born in Korea that came over here in 1976, but I tell you that because that’s who I am. I get my discipline, my work ethic, my honesty from my father. I get my unselfishness and other centered focus from my mother, and that’s exactly how I will lead this football program. We will be disciplined. We will be tough. We will work tirelessly. But we will do it with the understanding that no one person, no one coach is more important than another. As a team and as a family, we’ll accomplish all of our goals. I plan on leading this team with an unwavering standard. We will call it the golden standard. So what is the golden standard? Number one, it’s challenge everything. This is why I’m here. Our leaders challenge normalcy. Our athletic director, our president challenge normalcy. Challenge everything is a mentality to find a better way. Number two is unit strength. Unit strength means love. It’s making a choice to love your teammates. It’s what turns players into a team. And number three is the competitive spirit. It’s creating a winner’s mindset. I believe that leaders are born but winners are created and you’re created through intentional actions. As I previously stated, this standard will be unwavering, and this is the standard that will drive this football program to its 12th National Championship.

Opening Statement (pt. 3 of 3)

Lastly, there’s a few thank yous I want to give. I want to start with my wife Joanna. My wife, my partner, thank you for your unselfishness. Thank you for always being there and your support most of the time. You can be my toughest critic, but thank you for just being there. To my kids — Vinny, Siena, Gino, Rocco, Capri, Nico — I got all six? There he is. You didn’t ask for this. You didn’t ask to share your dad, but you have to, and I love you. To Father Jenkins, Jack Swarbrick, thank you for challenging everything. Thank you for making a decision to believe in a 35-year-old first time head coach. And I vow to work tirelessly to never disappoint you. Dang it. (Laughter.) (Applause.) Don’t be back there laughing either. To the board of trustees and countless others that approved my hire, thank you. My current and former players, you are my why. You are my motivation. You are the reason I get up every day and work as hard as I can to see you all reach your goals. To see you all set a goal and live out a dream is what gives me my inspiration every day to do what I do. Last but not least, my parents. I’ve kind of told you their story, but I just want you to know, when others say just be yourself, I am me because of you. In closing, I am ready to get to work. My sense of urgency is for right now. It’s to make sure that this team is prepared on January 1st in the Fiesta Bowl to be victorious against Oklahoma State, and that’s where our focus will be.

On crazy past week:

It’s been pretty crazy. Just from the minute I knew Coach Kelly was going to go to LSU until now, it’s been a whirlwind. The thing I learned now, as a head coach, you’ve just got to take things moment by moment by moment and not look at it as the big picture. You’ve got to take things moment by moment and that’s what I’ve been trying to do.

Where does 35 year old find confidence to be Notre Dame's head coach?

You know, Tim, I’ve got to be myself, and that’s what I told him. Here’s the things that I believe we can do to raise the level, to raise the standard, but I’m going to do it the only way I know how, and that’s being myself. That’s doing it as a teammate. That’s doing it with others. We’re going to achieve greatness as a group, as a team. They accepted it. They accepted it. And that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to do this thing together as a team.

What adjustments need made to program?

I think it starts with we’re going to recruit at the highest level and we’re going to recruit the best football players in the country that fit Notre Dame. And you’re not going to change the standards of Notre Dame, but there are certain players out there that fit Notre Dame and they might not know. So our job as a coaching staff is to be able to communicate with these young people what Notre Dame can do for your life, and that’s what I plan on doing.

Decision on DC for bowl game and 2022 season?

Not yet. No, I have not. My focus right now is just for this upcoming bowl game. We will not name a defensive coordinator for next year until after the bowl game. All the coaches, we all plan to go as we’ve gotten here. We’ll go to work. We’re not making changes. We’re going to coach

Will he call defensive plays for Fiesta Bowl?

I have not decided that. I have not made that decision. I think this week when I’m on the road, I’m ready to get recruiting, and I’ll kind of figure out what’s going to be the best for our staff, where I can put my attention to. Because what I won’t do is I won’t cheat those players. If I can’t give them my full attention, if I can’t make sure they’re prepared, then I’ll have somebody else call the plays.

What he looks for in assistant coaches

Number one, you have to be a leader of young men. You have to treat these guys the way I believe you have to treat young people. Number two, you’ve got to be a relentless recruiter. If you can’t recruit, you probably aren’t going to be the best for our university and our team.

His offensive philosophy:

Well, it’s what you’ve seen on the field, right? It’s what you’ve seen Tommy do. When I talked to Jack Swarbrick about the opportunity to keep Tommy Rees, that was without question. What you see from our offense that side of the ball is a group that from the beginning of the season until now has just played better and better and better. I’m not looking for a certain scheme. I’m looking for a group that’s productive and does the job necessary to win.

On juggling being father (of six) and Notre Dame head football coach

It starts with having an unselfish wife and understanding that there’s going to be certain things you miss. There’s going to be certain times that you miss things because of what this job entails. There have to be people around you who tell you, hey, go home, go spend time with your family. That’s what I plan on doing. We will build a trust amongst our football support staff, our coaching staff that we’re all going to be able to remind ourselves what really matters here.

What needs enhanced in Notre Dame locker room?

When I say that, the goal is to win. The goal is to win it all. The goal is to win the National Championship. That’s the ultimate goal. But how you get there, it’s going to take a process. It’s going to take enhancing whatever we’ve done to get to this point. It’s going to take looking at every single thing we do as an organization and find a better way to do it. That goes back to challenging everything. We have to find a better way to do everything we do. We have to coach better. We have to teach better. We have to recruit better. We have to perform better. Everything we do, we’ve got to find a better way to do it.

On his role in recruiting as head coach:

I’d better be the number one recruiter. I’d better be the lead recruiter in every kid that we recruit, and I plan on doing it. We obviously have to depend on our staff, and I will depend on our staff to make sure we know who and what and why we’re recruiting every individual. If I’m not the lead recruiter, then we’re cheating.

Lessons from first 11 months at Notre Dame

I think coming in from — being an outsider coming in, there’s times you think you can come to Notre Dame and say, I’m going to change who can come in here. I’m going to change who can have success here. You won’t. You have to embrace this place. You have to embrace the things that make us different. You have to embrace the people here that are different. You have to embrace the competitive thinkers, the individuals that are on this football team. If you embrace everything that comes with the University of Notre Dame, you’re going to be better because of it. And it’s better — you can put a line there. Better person, better football player, better student, better mother, father. But if you embrace this place, you’re going to be better because 115389-2-1182 2021-12-06 20:19:00 GMT Page 5 of 7 of it.

How we viewed Notre Dame as: recruit, as assistant elsewhere, as staff member:

As a recruit, that’s 2002 or 2003, they hadn’t won one, but you still know the history and tradition behind Notre Dame and probably every year that Notre Dame had a chance to win it.

As an outsider before I got here, Notre Dame was in the playoffs two of the past three years before I got here. So if you’re making the playoffs, you have a chance to win it all.

Now that I’m here, we’re close. We’re close. We’re not there yet, but we’re close. It can be done right away. We’re not talking about a future long term plan. This is talking about the urgency I said for now to finish this season off, and then next year we have to have intentional efforts to make sure we’re doing whatever it takes to put this team in position to win a National Championship

Communication key in recruiting

Well, I think it’s the ability to communicate with the best players in the country that this place is special, and that’s what — people keep saying what’s the difference? What do you understand about this place now that you’re here? It’s just that whatever these — maybe at 16 or 17, when I was a recruit, I was looking for, hey, where can I go win a National Championship? If that’s all you’re looking for, you can look right here at Notre Dame because we’ve been in the playoffs two of the last three years. But it’s the ability to show these young people, get their minds to think past football. Get their minds to think whatever that point is, as these guys will tell you, whatever that point is when you’re done playing — it could be after your senior year. It could be one year in the NFL. It could be ten years in the NFL. The minute you’re done playing, that’s to me where the value of Notre Dame really shows itself. And that’s what we’ve got to be able to do is to get these young people that are the best players in the country that fit Notre Dame to understand there is no better option for you.

Kyle Hamilton's availability for Fiesta Bowl:

I knew at some point that was going to come up. No, I’ve communicated clearly with Kyle. His health is the number one importance for any decision we make. And whatever is best for him and whatever is best for his health, I am going to support. So we have not had that conversation. We have not made a decision. He has not made a decision. He knows he has the full support of his head coach. Whatever is best for Kyle Hamilton, I’m in full support of.

On crazy 11 months and fast rise at Notre Dame:

I wish I could point out every moment that led to this point, but you just look and you think about — I told the defensive unit in a meeting towards the end of the year, the ability to love a group of guys in 11 months, that’s to me what shows you the power of Notre Dame. The ability to be around a group of guys and to fall in love and trust them — and that’s what — I want to make sure everybody understands. I’ve been asked this question a couple times. Your players were really happy. They’re really excited. That doesn’t mean it’s all warm and fuzzy. They understand the expectation. They understand to achieve anything it’s going to be really hard and they’re going to be pushed. They’re going to be pushed real hard. But they’ve got a leader and they have leaders around them that care about them and have their best interests at heart. And that’s how we’re going to create success here. We’re going to push each other, but they know their leaders trust them, they know their leaders love them. That, to me, is what has gotten us to this point? It’s that over 11 months you feel that way about a group of guys, and I hope the feeling’s mutual most of the time. The other part of that question, did I ever think I’d be the head coach of Notre Dame in 11 months? No, that’s not realistic. Well, I guess it is now. (Laughter.) I guess now it is. But it is, it is a dream come true, and every once in a while, I sit back and say, whoa, you are the head coach of University of Notre Dame. Once that second goes up, it’s about get back to work, get back to work.

More on the crazy past week:

Yeah, we haven’t got a whole bunch of sleep. Again, when Coach Kelly calls and says, hey, I’m going to LSU. He says, will you go as my defensive coordinator? I said, yeah, I need a job, but can I talk to my wife? That’s all I said, can I talk to my wife? He said yeah. From that moment, it’s been a whirlwind. Just the conversations you have, the people you have to talk to, the conversation you have with players, it’s all crazy. I don’t want to get into the details of what the next 48 hours or 72 hours were like, it was pretty hectic, not a lot of sleep, but the end result is you’re the head coach of Notre Dame. So I will take it any time.

His football dreams as a kid:

Just to be the best at what you do. It was to be the best at what you do. I didn’t care about — when I was in high school, I wanted to be the best football player I could be. I got to college, I wanted to be the best football player I could be and be part of the best team I could be. When I got drafted into the NFL, be the best NFL player I could be. Then I had a moment where I had to make a decision. What’s next for me? I got into coaching — and I’ve told this story before, but I got into coaching because I was like, man, I want to stay around football. I want to stay around the game. I want to be on the sidelines. I love it. Then you realize very quickly that the satisfaction and gratification you get is seeing young people reach their goals. So the minute I realized that, I said, I’m going to be the best football coach I can be. I never said I want to be the head coach. I just want to be the best football coach, the best leader for this group of young men that I can be. That’s how I’ll continue to attack the rest of my life.

Prepping players for life beyond football:

I think back to the lessons I learned, and maybe not as much as the things people said, but the actions they did. How am I going to help influence this group of young men? It’s not going to be always what I say. It’s going to be my actions. I want them to see me as a husband. I want them to see me as a father. I want them to see me as a leader, as a friend, as a colleague. I want them to see physically with their eyes my actions because that’s, to me, what’s going to be the most lasting impact they’re going to have.

What his hiring means for minority coaches across college football:

I think it’s you can do whatever you want, right? You can be whoever you want. You just got to do it the right way. You’ve got to treat people with respect. If you work hard and you do the right things, the opportunities are endless. Hopefully, it shows that there can be representation of all colors. There can be representation of anyone, any ethnicity, any background. If you’re the right leader and you can make others better, that you can be in a position of leadership.

Related Links:

Marcus Freeman talks crazy week, Kelly’s job offer with Dan Patrick

Freeman knows he better be top recruiter as head coach

Tommy Rees discusses all things Notre Dame and Fiesta Bowl

No decision yet for Kyle Hamilton and Fiesta Bowl

Watch entire Marcus Freeman introductory press conference here

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