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Look out America, here comes the "human dynamo, the whirling dervish of college football." No, he's not another running back out of Lubbock or a linebacker from the Pennsylvania hills. He's Gerry Faust, who last fall coached a high school team but now is the head man at Notre Dame, as described by one of his assistants, Greg Blache.
Blache, the Irish offensive backfield coach, knows all about dynamos. Not long ago, after accompanying the peripatetic Faust on a nonstop recruiting tour, Blache crashed into bed at 3 a.m. Three hours later the phone rang. It was Faust: "Hey, Greg! Let's go get 'em! It's a beautiful day out there!" Glancing out the window, the semi-comatose Blache could only mutter, "How can you tell, Coach? It's still dark."
During his four months on the job—he succeeded Dan Devine, who retired—Faust has seemed bent on proving that one man really can go in 17 directions at once—18 if you count his daily visits to church for Mass and communion. Subsisting on 4½ hours sleep and one meal on the run a day, dictating letters in taxis and catnapping in private jets, he has been crisscrossing the land as if in hot pursuit of his guiding ideal: "Ya gotta be perfect—or better."
Along with the endless search for the "quality kid," between the banquets, interviews and autograph sessions, Faust has been busily shaping his staff, holding day-long meetings, selecting new uniforms, building a new house, posing for photos, riding on parade floats, tossing Frisbees with students and visiting dorms, hospitals and faculty clubs, with pauses along the way to pick up a gum wrapper or two from the otherwise immaculate Notre Dame quadrangle.
If enthusiasm is what it takes to shake down the thunder, then Faust is Thor himself. Hear him ramble on: "Boy, this place is great. I'm really having fun. What a place for young people to go to school. You know, my three kids'll go here. This is the greatest job in the world. I've really been blessed."
Still, for all Faust's effervescence, there have been questions from some of the far-flung faithful. Like, how can a raw newcomer, the only head coach Notre Dame has ever selected from the high school ranks, compete with the hordes of seasoned recruiters from other colleges? What expertise can a former lunchroom supervisor hope to bring to a school that demands the ultimate in sophisticated, high-powered football? And just exactly why does he think he can succeed in big-time college football?
"For the same reason a governor can be President of the United States," says Faust.
More widespread is concern about how well Faust will endure the enormous pressures that go with the job. Can he bear up under the weighty mantle passed on by the legendary likes of Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy and Ara Parseghian? Is he fully aware of the grand tradition he's expected to perpetuate, which includes 10 national championships and a 7-3-0 bowl record? "Frankly," Faust said a while back, "I just haven't had the time to think about that stuff. If I did, it might hit me all at once and that's a little scary."
But hit him it inevitably did when he saw his Fighting Irish suited up for the opening session of spring practice two weekends ago. Typically, Faust was out on the field early that day, tending to details, when he spied the players, 100 yards off, trotting out of the locker room in a ritualized procession. It was a stirring sight: four abreast and 80 strong, they snaked along in their golden helmets like a great river glinting in the sun. Inspired, Faust ran to meet them, cheering them on with all the excitement of a puppy yapping at a parade.
Right then, Faust recalls, is when the chill went up his back: "I said to myself, 'Geez, I'm going to be part of this. This is the greatest thing in my life.' "