Each time the Notre Dame bands played the school's Victory March during Tyrone
Willingham's first season at Notre Dame, the song represented just that --victory--in many ways
and for many individuals. Alan Grant enthusiastically describes the successes of Willingham's
first season and how Willingham's leadership on and off the football field gave a new identity to
the school's football program and a renewed emphasis to the importance of academic excellence
Grant describes the passion for Notre Dame football--a passion exhibited not only by the students,
alumni, and South Bend people but by many in this country and abroad. He also describes the
highlights of each "first-season" game in a way that all readers can enjoy. However, the book's
underlying focus seems to be, and rightly so, the story of a conservative, goal-oriented coach who
in his first season at Notre Dame brought the Irish football program back to a position of
prominence and how, Grant believes, Willingham saved the school's football program.
Grant explains that Willingham believes physical toughness is the result of mental toughness, and
Grant gives numerous examples of Willingham's ideas concerning focus and "mental toughness"
that are so important to any winning football program. He also discusses the "mental toughness"
that Willingham has exhibited since childhood and the same "toughness" that has taken him
through the ranks of being a player into the coaching arena. Grant also discusses Willingham's
selflessness, sense of community, and his ability to teach his players about the importance of such
qualities as well as teaching the players about the importance of self-control and believing in
themselves as individuals.
Willingham had high expectations for his team, and the Notre Dame football legacy helped him
focus his efforts on the challenge of moulding his players into a cohesive team. Grant describes
Willingham as an intensely private person, but he documents the coach's leadership and coaching
philosophy through Willingham's words and actions. The author also discusses the new coach's
efforts to relate to the student body, the importance of the weekly pep rallies, and the impact of
the sea of green "Return to Glory" tee-shirts worn by fans at pep rallies and on game day.
All football fans, casual and avid, should place this book on their reading list. It is an "easy" read,
enjoyable, and it describes the spirit and enthusiasm of Notre Dame football in a way that makes
everyone understand the crowd's enthusiasm when the team runs from the tunnel under the
stadium onto the field for another day of Irish football.