Blue and Gold Illustrated

August 2017

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 3 of 63

4 AUGUST 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED T h e o u t p o u r i n g o f emotion and admi‑ ration was evident in the voice of Matthias Farley with every ques‑ tion fielded by the former Notre Dame safety in re‑ membering Bob Elliott, his Irish position coach. Farley, who played un‑ der the popular Notre Dame defensive assistant from 2012‑15, was bedside July 8 in Iowa City when Elliott, 64, finally suc‑ cumbed to a difficult battle with a rare form of blood cancer that began 19 years ago. Cancer may have pre‑ maturely taken the coach's life, but this deadly disease couldn't steal a legacy that will forever remain strong to Farley and all the play‑ ers that Elliott touched during his 40 years as a college football coach — many of whom gathered in Iowa City from all over the U.S. to pay their final respects. "It was insane to see all the guys that were coming back," said Farley, who cut short a vacation in Milan, Italy, to return stateside and be next to his ailing mentor. "Some of these guys were in their 30s, some were in their 40s, some in their 50s. The impact coach had was the same on somebody who graduated when [El‑ liott] finished his first year of coach‑ ing [1976] and somebody from his last year of coaching [2016]." A bone marrow transplant in 1998 while coaching at Iowa — an opera‑ tion that offered only a 50‑percent survival rate — helped Elliott beat cancer and return to his on‑field duties. However, the procedure gradu‑ ally damaged his kidneys over time, and two weeks after arriving at Notre Dame for his new job in Feb‑ ruary 2012, Elliott needed a kidney transplant. The surgery was a success, but re‑ covery was long and required con‑ stant monitoring and daily IV treat‑ ments that Elliott would administer to himself for 40 minutes three times a day, often inside his football office. At times, the IV stand rolled along‑ side Elliott into a defensive meeting room, and other times while out on the road, the fearless coach needed to pull over for the treatments that delivered fluid directly into his stom‑ ach cavity to help replicate a kidney's work. Elliott also required eight hours of dialysis overnight, every night. Just another part of another day for Elliott. "This man," Farley said, "was out there having more fun with a smile on his face, going through something that a lot of us wouldn't have been able to, or would've made us bitter to have to keep going through these things, and he never complained." And as if things weren't tough enough during Elliott's difficult treat‑ ments, Farley shared a story about a game‑week practice when the sturdy safety blindly bulldozed his small‑ ish and frail position coach during a back‑peddling drill, having his cleats "fillet" Elliott's legs. Already in poor health, Elliott en‑ dured failed skin grafts and needed more than a year to fully recover from the collision, never once losing his posi‑ tive player‑first attitude, as usual. "I'd see coach limping around, and I felt terrible about it," Farley recalled. "Coach would see I was upset, get mad and always say, 'Don't feel bad about this — it's not your fault, I was standing in the wrong place.' … His heart was too big for his body, I think that is the moral of the story." The morals and stories are countless and the lay‑ ers are many of the impact Elliott made on the hun‑ dreds of players he men‑ tored along his nine dif‑ ferent campus stops and 38 years on the job, a jour‑ ney that after five seasons at Notre Dame recently landed him at Nebraska as a safeties coach before can‑ cer returned and took away one final chance to teach and touch. "To have Coach Elliott say he was disappointed with you would be worse than any coach ripping your head off," said Farley, who parlayed his four years working under his mentor into an NFL gig with the In‑ dianapolis Colts. "Coach Elliott cared and that caring superseded football." Elliott's long fight is over now. He's survived by his two children, Grant and Jessica, and his wife, Joey — a wonderful woman Farley affec‑ tionately calls "Momma E" for how she complemented "Coach E's" car‑ ing teaching style with a mother 's loving touch. "Momma E was a rock for all of us also," Farley said of Joey. "She was always making sure all of us were where we were supposed to be when we were supposed to be there." In the same way Bob Elliott always was there and always will be for Far‑ ley and so many others. ✦ A Coach's Touch, A Player's Love UPON FURTHER REVIEW TODD D. BURLAGE Todd D. Burlage has been a writer for Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 2005. He can be reached at Bob Elliott, who passed away July 8 after a long battle with a rare form of blood cancer, had a lasting impact on the players he worked with over the course of his 40-year coaching career. PHOTO BY JOE RAYMOND

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - August 2017