This letter was sent to the 1966 Notre Dame Football Team by then-coach Ara Parshegian. Back then we obtained a copy of the Notre Dame playbook and found this letter to the team in the book.
The Notre Dame Champion: He looks normal, is so humble he rarely thinks himself good enough. He is dedicated to try for all he’s worth–with effort, with enthusiasm, with deep emotion! Down deep, he has a distinct piece of knowledge that he just knows. If you won’t be beaten, you can’t be beaten. Never think loss. He never holds to the idea that he can’t overcome any obstacle. His state of mind will generate his body into super efforts–beyond what the mediocre can comprehend! Notre Dame’s Champion knows well that each opponent will be out for Notre Dame. He also knows that men of Notre Dame can never enjoy the luxury of having a breaking point–the point where others suddenly sense the tide against them and relent. The true champion is relentless. He plays for as long as the contest or season–and never, never breaks! The true champion bows his head in prayer–for God, for country and Notre Dame. In his mind’s eye, football and Notre Dame and winning are all a part of a thirst in him—that he welcomes, he feels deeply about, is intertwined with his core of existence. Here in the span of 90 days, Champions are being born, they are emerging. The season of 1966 will hold a place and time in history—to recognize the new faces, the new names, the new Champions. They will, I repeat, look normal–sweat, cry, pray, laugh, bleed, fall, scream. Better the Champion not as individuals, but as a team–one united, spirited, enthusiastic and daring group of Notre Dame men bonded together for a lifetime!
Well, upon finding and reading this letter, we copied it and changed the team name to Paul VI High School and mailed it to our 1971 team, who did become a championship team in 1971. I want to highlight an individual from our team who lived this letter word for word. He probably will not be too thrilled for this praise, but as you read on, you too will agree that Poncho Santangelo deserves the praise!
Soon after our season, Poncho Santangelo came to me and inquired about seeing a doctor concerning his hand. I told him that he could certainly see a doctor and asked him what the problem was. Poncho explained that he injured the hand during the season. When I asked when it happened, his reply was, “During the third game of the season.” The third game! I looked at the hand, and it was swollen and discolored. I asked, “Why did you hide this from the medical staff?” His answer was simple. “I would have to sit out a game or two and that was a no-no for me.” I mentioned that it was not a good idea to hide his injury, and in hindsight, he agreed. I made the appointment and waited for the results.
Poncho had broken his hand early in the season, and it was beginning to heal. The doctor said the hand had to be re-broken and set properly! Well, it was done and Poncho recovered nicely. Tony Poncho Santangelo, at 6 feet, 3 inches and 235 pounds, was one of our front four on defense on our 1971 team. After the season, he was selected High School All American, All South Jersey, All Parochial, All Conference, and he received a scholarship to play at Temple University! A valued team member, he certainly put the success of the team before himself! To try when your arms are too weary!