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Moved nearly to tears, Weis invited the boy to call the first play of Notre Dame's upcoming game against Washington. Montana called for a pass to the right but died before the game. Even though the Irish's first possession began on their own six-inch line, Weis held to his promise. Quinn threw to tight end Anthony Fasano for a 13-yard gain.
In his book Weis explains that the arrangement was "supposed to have been a private thing." But when Montana's mother called a local TV station, the story went national. "I looked like a self-promoter," Weis writes, "when all I was trying to do was the right thing."
He does the right thing, does Weis, consequences be damned. Twenty minutes after a heart-wrenching loss to the Trojans, he did what seemed to him to be the right thing: He walked into the visitors' locker room (after seeking the permission of co-captains Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart) and addressed the Trojans. "I just wanna wish you guys luck the rest of the way," he said. "That was a friggin' hard-fought battle. I hope you guys win out."
Weis is fond of saying there are no moral victories at Notre Dame. Perhaps not. But there was an upside to that game, win or lose: Weis had had the confidence and foresight to invite a number of blue-chip recruits to the game. The next day he met with each of them for a half hour. While the kids varied by position, his message to them did not: You saw how close we were to beating the national champions. If only we had you.
Where Davie and Willingham may have talked to recruits about national titles, "these kids are smart," says Wallace of SuperPrep and scout.com. They see you losing three, four games. They see you barely beating service academies. They know when talk is empty.
"But right now," Wallace continues, "when Charlie Weis comes into your living room, looks you in the eye and tells you that you can help him win a national title right away, he's right. They're going to win a lot. I think he's going to win a national championship."
A month after the loss to USC, the Fighting Irish doubled up Navy, 42-21. At the end of the game Weis led his players to the far end of the stadium, where the Midshipmen had gathered in front of the Navy band. The Irish players stood respectfully at attention while the Middies sang their school song, Navy Blue and Gold. Taking its cue from the team, 80,000 people in Notre Dame Stadium fell stone silent, paying tribute to the visiting warriors during a time of war. It was a powerful moment.
Says White, the director of athletics, "There's an expression they use around here" for people who have contributed to the school's reputation. "They are said to have blood in the bricks"--meaning part of their very being is in the place. "Well, Charlie has blood in the bricks, and he's going to have a lot more before all this is over."