ND notebook: Kelly brushes off NFL rumors

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ND notebook: Kelly brushes off NFL rumors

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Only a few days before kickoff of the BCS Championship, the NFL is the furthest thing from Brian Kelly's mind.

As a slew of NFL coaches were fired following the conclusion of the regular season a week ago, Kelly's name was thrown out as one that would interest some teams -- including the Bears -- if he were keen on jumping to the next level. When asked on Saturday, Kelly didn't offer any hints about overtures from the NFL, adding that every inquiry is directed through his agent.

"It's flattering if there is interest, which I don't know that there is," Kelly said. "But again, that is such a secondary topic for me right now, it's all about this game."

If Kelly is thinking about bolting, he certainly didn't intimate it on Saturday -- and it would come as a surprise even when one gets beyond the usual coachspeak of a press conference. As a successful college coach who, by some observer's accounts, has the intangibles necessary to coach in the NFL, the rumors will be there, even if there's nothing backing them at this moment.

"When I took the job at Notre Dame, I think I said it was a dream job," Kelly explained. "But I never went around day to day anything about being the Notre Dame head coach, because the job that I had in hand was what I was thinking about. And I think that's the same thing with the NFL.

"I think from my perspective I've got the best job in the country, NFL, college, high school, whatever. I just look at the place that I'm at and thankful for the opportunity that I have."

Kelly striving for Alabama's success

Nick Saban doesn't like the throw the D-word around, but a third title in four years would firmly slap a dynasty label on the Tide. Just as Kelly said earlier in the year he hoped to establish the kind of dominance at home Bob Stoops has at Oklahoma, he's hoping to see the kind of year-to-year prosperity established by Saban at Alabama.

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"We're talking about historic success," Kelly said. "We're not talking about somebody that wasn't ranked last year -- Notre Dame -- or at the start of the year. Your program is defined in consistency, and Alabama is that model. I concede to that. It's where we want to be."

Notre Dame hasn't won back-to-back titles since the 1940s under Frank Leahy, while Ara Parseghian's two championships were seven years apart. No team has won back-to-back titles since Nebraska in the mid-1990s (although USC supporters would contest that).

It's not easy to do, but Saban's on the cusp of doing it -- and Notre Dame, obviously, wants to get to the point where it's feasible for them as well.

"We want to be back here next year," Kelly said. "I think there's been some commentators that have talked about, is Notre Dame for real? Well, for me we're for real because we're here. We won all of our games; that's clear. Where is Notre Dame going to be as it relates to the consistency thing? And that's why I'm the head coach and that's why I want to be the head coach, because I want to show we can do this consistently."

Coming out of the woodwork

The holidays were an interesting time for Notre Dame players, who returned to their friends and families only a few weeks away from playing for a National Championship. Offensive lineman Chris Watt, who grew up in a family that supported the University of Illinois, said the whole experience has "been kind of surreal" while center Braxston Cave said he's heard from distant, distant relatives trying to snatch up tickets for the game.

Notre Dame players get six tickets for the game, and Manti Te'o's using all of them for his family, although with five siblings and two parents, someone might've had to stay home.

"I think every individual who plays in this game is contacted from family members that they haven't met yet," Te'o said.

Cave, in his fifth year at Notre Dame, won't have any friends coming down to South Florida for the game, though. Recognizing his envious position, the center grinned: "All my friends have jobs now. They couldn't take time off."

High School coaches 'leave no stone unturned' in helping players explore next level

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Photo at top: Loyola Academy assistant coach Paul Pryma extends his hand toward a Steinmetz High School player during pregame introductions on Feb. 21. (Andres Waters/MEDILL)

High School coaches 'leave no stone unturned' in helping players explore next level

By Andres Waters
Special Contributor to CSNChicago.com

After Loyola Academy held off rival New Trier 43-40 to win the 2017 Zion-Benton regional championship, Ramblers head coach Tom Livatino had a special message for his players.

"That's the best celebration that I have ever been a part of," Livatino said. "Because everybody was completely about love. You guys love each other and we all can tell. I'm really, really proud just to be one of our coaches."

While the speech was a powerful way for Livatino to tell the players of his appreciation, he and other high school coaches engage in something much bigger to show players how proud they are: college recruiting.

In addition to time spent planning and practicing, coaches also sacrifice countless hours each week helping their players find opportunities to play at the next level.

"It's a really long part of the process, but to be honest, it's a part of the job that I absolutely love," Livatino said. "We demand so much of our players in every aspect. And, from a basketball standpoint, the least I could do is everything in my power to help them out."

Less than 48 hours after the Ramblers completed their season with a loss to Evanston Township in the Waukegan Sectional semifinal, Livatino was back in his office holding individual meetings with each player.

Starting with the 10 departing seniors, Livatino discussed the factors that go into choosing a college for high school athletes.

His conversations with the two players who already committed, senior guards Ramar Evans and Matt Lynch, focused on how they felt about their next steps. With the others, Livatino asked whether they wanted to play at the next level and, if so, which schools they wanted to attend that shared an interest in them. The conversations held with the Ramblers' juniors are very similar.

"I wasn't just looking for basketball, I was looking for a fit academically and socially," said Lynch, who committed to Division III St. Norbert College. "[Livatino] said St. Norbert would be the best fit for me. It fit everything I was looking for."

Read the full story at Medill Reports Chicago.

CSN Chicago, in partnership with Northwestern University,  features journalism by students in the graduate program at Medill School of Journalism. The students are reporters for Medill News Service. Medill faculty members edit the student work. Click here for more information about Medill.

From dunks to deliveries: Former No. 1 pick LaRue Martin's unlikely success story

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Photo at top: La Rue Martin poses for a photo at a National Basketball Retired Players Association event. (Photo courtesy of La Rue Martin)

From dunks to deliveries: Former No. 1 pick LaRue Martin's unlikely success story

By Elan Kane
Special Contributor to CSNChicago.com

LaRue Martin Jr. thought his future was set. The Portland Trail Blazers had drafted him No. 1 overall in the 1972 NBA draft. Money and fame awaited.

Fifteen years later, he started work as a UPS driver, struggling to find uniform pants that fit his 6-foot-11 frame.

"There is life after sports," Martin said. "Period."

It's been 45 years since the draft and Martin, a former Loyola University star, is now the UPS Illinois district public affairs and community services manager. He is labeled by many as one of the biggest busts in NBA draft history, but he is fine with that designation.

"I don't believe in saying anything negative, you have no control over that," Martin said. "I took care of my family, did what I had to do and I'm the type of person I can't dwell off the negatives. I can't. I kept my head up high and moved onto a positive mode of life and it has treated me very well."

Martin averaged 5.3 points and 4.6 rebounds in 14 minutes per game in just four seasons with the Trail Blazers. He blames his low numbers on his lack of playing time, but many believe he was just not good enough.

"He didn't get playing time because he [stunk]," said Boston Globe sports columnist Bob Ryan, who has covered the NBA for decades. "[Former No. 1 overall draft pick Michael] Olowokandi didn't do much but I think he did more than that."

Martin is used to the criticism.

"As a young man, reading the papers all the time, that bothered me, I must admit that," Martin said. "But I hold my head up high now because I've been very successful in the corporate world."

Read the full story at Medill Reports Chicago.

CSN Chicago, in partnership with Northwestern University,  features journalism by students in the graduate program at Medill School of Journalism. The students are reporters for Medill News Service. Medill faculty members edit the student work. Click here for more information about Medill.