Jan 2, 2014, 11:29 PM EST
Rachel Murphy, the official 2013-14 women’s basketball beat writer for the In The Paint blog, is currently a sophomore at St. Mary’s College. Over the course of the year Rachel will bring you insight from within the student section, interviews with Fighting Irish players and stories from inside the team circle. You can follow Rachel (and the rest of the Notre Dame student beat writing staff) on twitter at @JrNDBloggers. In today’s piece, Rachel talks about a story many people always wondered about; how the football squad’s green jerseys came to be…
The 1977 “Green Jersey” game versus Southern California is one of the most iconic moments in Notre Dame football history. Being the daughter of a 1977 national champion, I’ve heard the story from practically every name on that roster. No matter who is telling the story, one name always comes up: Digger Phelps.
You might be wondering why the then men’s basketball coach even comes up in the discussion, but those on the field that day know Digger is the reason they wore green.
“Dan’s first year here I told him…why don’t you wear green for Southern Cal,” recalls Phelps.
The first two years it was a no go, but year three, with the team on their way to a national title, was the year of the green. Come Southern Cal week, Devine finally broke the news to Phelps, the green jerseys were a go.
“I said, ‘do you know how to do it?’” Phelps quipped. If the green jersey idea was going to happen, Phelps wanted it executed perfectly. He told Devine to let the team warm up in blue, and during that time, let the student managers put the green jerseys in each locker.
“And when the team comes upstairs, shut the door,” Digger said, “I don’t care if you have to take a delay of game, let Southern Cal be on that field before you come back down and out that tunnel.”
And that’s exactly what happened, just ask Joe Montana. One of the legendary captains of the ’77 team (not to mention an NFL legend), Montana, took the time to talk to me about that game.
“Devine was talking all week about ‘green, be wearing your green for the Irish’,” said Montana, “we couldn’t figure it out, so we went out for warm-ups in our normal jerseys.”
Unknown to everyone but the captains and coaches, the locker room was undergoing a Digger-inspired transformation.
“Then we go back in after workouts and everyone had green jerseys on their chairs.” Montana said. “Everyone was screaming and yelling in the locker room.”
The jerseys inspired perhaps the most memorable entrance in the history of Notre Dame football. With Southern Cal already on the field, a packed Notre Dame stadium looked on as a student built Trojan horse was rolled out onto the field. Out of that horse, just as in the Trojan War, came students donning green jerseys. However if it had been up to the captains, things would have gone a little differently.
“We wanted the captains to come out of there before the coin toss,” Montana said with a laugh. “But Devine wouldn’t let us.”
Once the horse was rolled out, the crowd already roaring, it was time for the Irish. With the eyes of the USC team and the nation upon them, the Irish ran out of the tunnel wearing the now-famous green jerseys that shocked the world.
“Sometimes it takes a little spark to get you going, and that’s what it was,” said Montana. “It was something to get us a little more hyped for something we really didn’t need to be more hyped for. It worked out well.”
That it did. The dramatic entrance electrified the crowd, giving Notre Dame an edge and shocking the Trojans. The Irish won 49-19 in a game now know as “The Green Jersey Game.”
Digger’s plan reflected his personality, bold and daring with a little bit of flash. It sparked the Irish and contributed to a key win in the championship season. You could call Phelps’ idea a stroke of genius, or you could call it Devine intervention.
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