They talked about Montana’s inoperable brain tumor, and about some pranks Weis had played on former Notre Dame and NFL quarterback Joe Montana (after whom the boy was named) when the two roomed together at Notre Dame. The coach also let Montana razz him about Notre Dame’s recent loss to Michigan State.
The boy told Weis how much he loved Notre Dame football and how he wanted to live through the coming Saturday’s game. From his reclining chair, Montana tried to toss a football but could hardly lift it, so Weis climbed into the chair and helped the boy complete the pass to his mother.
Then, Weis signed the ball. He asked the boy if he could do anything for him.
Montana was ready. He asked to call Notre Dame’s first play in Saturday’s game. He called “pass right.”
As Saturday dawned, Weis learned that Montana had died the day before. Weis called the boy’s mother to assure her that he’d still call Montana’s play.
In the locker room before the game, Weis told his team about his promise to the boy. He said it wasn’t a “Win one for the Gipper” kind of deal, but that he wanted team members to know that they—and Notre Dame football—meant a lot to many people they would never know.
That afternoon, the Irish took control of the ball on their own 1-yard line after recovering a fumble. Montana’s mother wasn’t sure quarterback Brady Quinn would be allowed to throw what amounted to a very dangerous pass so close to Notre Dame’s own goal line. Quinn wasn’t sure, either. He asked his coach what to do.
“We have no choice,” Weis said. “We’re throwing it to the right.”
At the snap of the ball, most of Notre Dame’s team feinted left, while Quinn ran right, looked for his receiver and found him. The receiver hurdled a defender and gained 13 yards.
Montana’s mother says her son would have been pleased.
After the game, Weis gave her the game ball … and a number of young people learned a lesson about integrity.
— Adapted from “Weis grants little boy’s dying wish,” Associated Press, www.espn.com.