University of Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly visits Vero Beach
By Jessica Creagan
VERO BEACH -- Out of 270 University of Notre Dame Alumni Clubs world-wide, the Vero Beach Notre Dame Alumni Club is one of six recognized as "Outstanding Club of the Year" and received a meet and greet luncheon with Brian Kelly, head football coach at the university.
Dozens of well-dressed Notre Dame alumni gathered at Quail Valley River Club in Vero Beach on April 16 for the event, and were very interested in hearing what the coach had to say about the school's football program.
This will be Coach Kelly's fourth year as head football coach at the university, and unlike other years, this year's team has a younger group of players.
Last year seniors and more experienced students cycled off the team, and many of them will be showing up in the upcoming National Football League draft, which leaves younger men on the team with less experience, but still quite athletic, Coach Kelly said.
In 2012, Notre Dame was undefeated in the regular season and advanced to the BCS Championship game where they lost to the University of Alabama.
Coach Kelly says he was very encouraged by that experience because it gave players, fans and potential students a chance to see a viable, competitive football program in recent history.
"They didn't have to look back 20 years. That helped us a lot in recruiting," Coach Kelly said.
Coach Kelly praised the Vero Beach alumni chapter for living out the standards and traditions of the university in real-world situations.
"The Notre Dame brand spreads from coast to coast and I'm here to recognize the great work that this club has done in Vero Beach," Coach Kelly said.
Local alumni members have embodied the qualities of the Notre Dame education experience by emphasizing community involvement, he said.
The local alumni club, established in 1988, has a history of involvement in the community, for example being instrumental in the development and support for the Homeless Family Center, said outgoing club President Dick Fava.
Most recently, the club sponsored an appearance of the Notre Dame Glee Club and proceeds from the concert were shared between the Homeless Family Center and the club's endowed scholarship fund, he said.
Dolly Duffy, executive director of the alumni association, said Vero Beach's alumni chapter was receiving the excellence award for the first time in its history, and was selected for the award by comparing it to other chapters of similar size.
"Vero Beach just rose to the top," Ms. Duffy said.
This was also the first time an active head football coach visited the chapter, said Tom Tierney, incoming club president.
"This is great, very nice to meet him," Mr. Tierney said.
But what was the statement Mr. Tierney hoped Coach Kelly would be able to say during his visit?
"That we're going to win the National Championship next time," he said with a grin.