Column: The perfect call

By Jon Gluskin

His star quarterback could have been blindsided.

His team could have been sacked in the end zone.

His season could have taken a turn for the worse.

But he said he had to run “pass right” – that was the play call.

Every so often in sports, there’s a play that sends tingles throughout your body and brings a look of awe to your face.

It might be a game-winning home run or a three-point basket at the buzzer, but last Saturday one of these jaw-dropping plays happened in the Notre Dame-Washington game.

And it’s recorded in the game log as a 13-yard pass, in a drive that ended in a lost fumble. But if you know the story behind it, then you know it was Notre Dame’s biggest play of the year.

Head coach Charlie Weis visited the house of 10-year-old Montana Mazurkiewicz last week. Mazurkiewicz was a huge Notre Dame fan. He also had a spreading brain tumor, which doctors said there was nothing more they could do about it.

Weis brought the boy a football and helped him throw it to his mom. Montana – named after Notre Dame great Joe Montana – needed Weis’ help in just picking up the ball, because the previous day he became paralyzed from the waist down.

Before Weis left, he asked the boy if there was anything else he could do for him. Montana wanted to call the first play in Saturday’s game – he chose “pass right.”

Weis said he would.

On Friday, Montana passed away. Weis called his mother that night to let her know “pass right” would still be the first play.

On game day, Weis couldn’t have asked for worse circumstances to run his first offensive play. Notre Dame forced and recovered a Washington fumble on its own one-yard line, which is where its drive began.

Weis later said his team had no choice but to run “pass right,” but that’s not true. Weis did have a choice.

As the head coach of arguably the highest-profile team in the nation, his job is to win football games. His 16th-ranked team was just coming off of a painful overtime loss to Michigan State. They needed a win.

He could have designated a later play for Montana, one in which less was at stake.

Instead, he gave Montana’s play call to quarterback Brady Quinn.

Quinn took the snap, with most of the Irish going left, scrambled to the right and fired a pass to tight end Anthony Fasano on the right side. Fasano caught the ball, hurdled over a defender and got tackled out of bounds.

The hoopla going into the game surrounded ex-Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham as he played his former team for the first time.

Do you think in 15 years anyone will remember that?

Do you think in 30 years anyone will remember that Notre Dame won the game 36-17?

I don’t.

But people will remember “pass right.”

I don’t think we will ever see such a classy act as what Weis did. He saw an opportunity to make a difference in a family and he took it – no matter how great the risk.

Weis would know the impact someone can make on a child’s life. His 10-year-old daughter, Hannah, has a developmental disorder which affects her motor skills and can lead to seizures if unmedicated.

Maybe that’s why he said he had no choice.

It takes a man like Charlie Weis to give us a reminder about the joy that sports does bring to our lives.

“Pass right” capped off a week that was jump-started on Monday night with NFL’s “Hurricane Relief Weekend,” where former NFL greats worked the phones at the telethon while two football games were being played.

Eli Manning even showed his hometown some love, appearing in a commercial promoting the “Be a Saint” shirts.

Even though it seems like daily we are bombarded with steroids, contracts and scandals throughout sports, that’s only half the story.

We realize it’s more than performances on the field that make athletes our heroes, or in some cases like Montana, coaches too.

Before Saturday’s game, being the offensive coodinator for the three-time Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots highlighted Weis’ career. His legacy is that much greater now.

We often forget the power of sports.

It can be a beautiful thing.

Jon Gluskin is a senior in communications. He can be reached at [email protected]