Weis keeps promise to dying boy

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 14, 2005

This isn't a story of whether you love or hate Notre Dame, nor if you think coach Charlie Weis is an offensive genius or you're already tired of the description hung on Weis from every sports commentator in America.

This is a story about life and that means it contains the elements of God, faith, love, hope and character.

The story was not supposed to become public, but a story involving Notre Dame rarely goes unnoticed. In this case, it was good to hear this kind of a story in contrast to the every day stories of players who try to draw attention to themselves with their actions or grandstand dances.

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Back on Wednesday, Sept. 21, a 10-year-old boy named Montana Mazurkiewicz had asked that a member of the Notre Dame team visit him in his home in Misawaka, Mich., just next to the Fighting Irish home in South Bend, Ind.

Having been named after Irish quarterback great Joe Montana, it was obvious to assume the boy was an avid Irish football fan. He was also dying of a brain tumor that had been discovered a year and a half ago.

On that Wednesday afternoon, Montana's mom, Cathy, told her son he had a visitor. But it was not a player as the boy requested. Instead, it was the head coach.

The boy's eyes grew as big as saucers, but he could not move. His lower body had become paralyzed and he was so weak that he couldn't pass the signed football Weis brought as a gift.

So Weis helped Montana throw a pass and then sat down to spend some time with the boy.

&#8221He's the kind of kid you know isn't going to make it. I felt it was my job to do all I could to put a smile on his face,“ Weis said.

Before Weis left the house, Montana had a big smile on his face.

At the end of the visit, Weis asked Montana if he'd like to call a play. In fact, he was going to let Montana call the first play of the upcoming game on Saturday at Washington.

&#8221I said, ‘Do you want me to run or pass?' He said ‘Pass to the right.' Not just pass, pass to the right,“ Weis said.

On Friday, Montana Mazurkiewicz died in his mother's arms. Mom sang him the Notre Dame fight song along with some songs written by her daughter.

&#8221He had told me that he wanted to be with the angels. I just told him that he could rest, that he could rest. and that he was my hero,“ Cathy Mazurkiewicz said.

Weis learned of Montana's death on Saturday morning with the team already in Washington. He he told the team about the visit but insisted this wasn't a &#8221Win one for the Gipper“ speech, because he doesn't believe in using individuals as inspiration. He just wanted the team to know people like Montana are out there.

&#8221That (the players) represent a lot of people that they don't even realize they're representing,“ Weis said.

In the game, Washington moved the ball down the field on the opening possession only to fumble. Notre Dame recovered inside the 1-yard line.

&#8221No way. He's not going to pass it. He can't. He can't make that play,“ thought Cathy Mazurkiewicz as she and her family watched the game.

With their backs to the wall, Irish quarterback Brady Quinn looked at his coach and asked what they were going to do.

&#8221We don't have any choice. We're going to run the play,“ Weis told Quinn.

The Irish ran a play action to the left and Quinn bootlegged to the right. He threw to a wide-open tight end Anthony Fassano who leaped over a defender and gained 13 yards and a first down.

&#8221It was almost like Montana was pulling him over that guy and getting us a few extra yards and getting us out of trouble,“ Weis said.

The play had an even greater impact on the Mazurkiewicz family than it did on the game.

&#8221It was the fact that coach Weis kept his word. That was the big thing that he kept his word in an almost impossible situation to a 10-year-old kid that he didn't even know,“ Cathy Mazuerkiewicz said.

And that is what sports - and life - are really all about.

Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune.