Coach Kelly’s father, Paul, watches as his son lives out his dream
It has been nearly 10 years since Brian Kelly landed his dream job as the head football coach of Notre Dame. Not only was it a dream come true for Coach Kelly, but for his dad, too. Paul Kelly is at every game supporting his son and beaming with pride.
Win or lose, Paul Kelly embraces his son Brian on the field after every Notre Dame game
"Believe it or not, my wife and I still pinch ourselves in the morning. We wake up in the morning and we look out the window and we're looking at the golden dome, touchdown Jesus, the Basilica. And I say to my wife, 'Did I die and go to heaven? This is just fantastic.'" Paul said.
It's moments like these that Paul could have never imagined while working two jobs and raising his family.
"I was working for a petroleum company in the oil industry and I was working at the dog track, believe it or not. I was an usher at the dog track 6 nights a week, which I hated, but it was something I had to do,” Paul said.
Coach Kelly was the middle son in an Irish catholic family growing up in a working class neighborhood of Boston.
"He was just the average little boy. He was so close to his brother. His brother is 11 months older. He had a younger brother and a younger sister so, it was kind of chaos. You know what that's like, with 4 kids under 5. A lot of running around. A little mischief, but overall I would say he was like every other little boy, we're going to get in trouble and fighting with his brothers, but they became really close,” Paul said.
Time was precious in those days because Paul didn't have a lot of it.
"I can remember him taking me to early morning workouts, hockey at 5:30am. It didn't matter what, he was always there,” Coach Kelly said.
Paul worked his way through college and got into politics, becoming an alderman in Boston. A work ethic that resonated with Coach Kelly.
"My dad in particular, as it relates to sports, some of the basic old fashioned tenets; never start something unless you finish it. Play the game the right way, I mean all of those traditional tenets. He never missed any of my games, wherever I played he was always there. So, I always had that support from him and I always felt like I wanted to provide that for my family and my kids as well as no matter where they were we were going to do our best to be there for them,” Coach Kelly said.
Coach Kelly played football at Assumption College.
After graduation, he had brief stints as the women's softball coach and as an assistant with the football team at his alma mater before getting his first big break at Grand Valley State University.
"When he got to Allendale, Michigan in his first job as a GA, the head coach told me ‘He's got possibilities. He could be a really good coach.’ So he got some breaks along the way and he got the head job after a few years. He spent 13 years at Grand Valley. Won 2 National Championships, should have won 3 and then he became a known quality and got into Division-1. The rest is history,” Paul said.
December 10th, 2009 Brian Kelly was named the head coach at Notre Dame and Paul has been along for the ride ever since.
“I got no complaints. No complaints. I just hope I live long enough to see the National Championship and I think it's within grasp. We keep moving a long and getting better and better at it and we've got the culture established that it's a winning program and we'll never see that 4-and-8 again. If we do, I'll be leaving town,” Paul said.
For Paul, seeing his son's dream come true is all he could have ever asked for.
"I go into the locker room after every game and get a chance to listen to him talk to the team. Sometimes I'm crying but most of the time I'm laughing. Not crying because we lost or we didn't have a good game, but crying realizing that he is standing up there in front of the University of Notre Dame, which I grew up listening to on the radio. I still can't pull it all together sometimes, you know. It gets emotional but I wouldn't trade it for anything else right now,” Paul said.
In Coach Kelly's 10 seasons as the head football coach of Notre Dame, Paul has only missed one game home and away.
He got sick earlier this season, but is feeling better and doesn’t plan to miss another game.