Notre Dame Football: Paqui Kelly

Irish lunch links

April, 29, 2014
Apr 29
Not-so-ridiculous-prediction: The Bulls stay alive tonight.

Irish lunchtime links

October, 17, 2013
Two weeks till Halloween ... any good ideas?

What to watch: Week 7 vs. Stanford

October, 11, 2012
Here's what to keep an eye on Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium.

1. Quarterback play. Josh Nunes beat USC, lost to Washington and had fans calling for his job ... then had the best game of his career last week against Arizona. Having to replace all-everything QB Andrew Luck probably doesn't help matters, either. Everett Golson, meanwhile, was yanked from the Purdue game, played great at night at Michigan State, got yanked from the Michigan game and also will be coming off the best game of his career, last week against Miami. Each defense will look to test the opposing quarterback Saturday.

2. Stanford sack. Notre Dame hasn't allowed a sack since Week 3 at Michigan State, but that's bound to change against Stanford's defense. The Cardinal average nearly three a game and had three last week against Arizona. They also are fourth in the nation in tackles for loss (8.6 per game), so the Irish need to avoid negative plays as much as possible.

3. Pink all over. Players and coaches will be decked out in pink accessories as Notre Dame recognizes Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The Kelly Cares Foundation is also selling Brian Kelly face-ka-bobs. Kelly's wife, Paqui, is a two-time breast cancer survivor who recently reached the five-year cancer-free mark.
Used by players just seven times a year, Notre Dame Stadium has become a source of reverence on a campus with no shortage of landmarks.

Picturesque? Yes. But hardly the forum that inspires hitting, which is why Brian Kelly changed things up a bit and held the first of his weekly Thursday practices inside the 80,000-seat stadium.

I felt at times we ran into the stadium like we were running into the Basilica or we were running into the Grotto. We're running into a football stadium, and I want our guys to feel comfortable in there.

-- Brian Kelly
"It's important our guys feel comfortable in there," the third-year Notre Dame coach said. "I felt at times we ran into the stadium like we were running into the Basilica or we were running into the Grotto. We're running into a football stadium, and I want our guys to feel comfortable in there. We were in there like six or seven times last year, so by going on Thursdays I want our guys to feel comfortable in the stadium, in the locker room, in the tunnel, on the field, on the sideline. We practiced there today, had a good practice and now we're ready for focus Friday and get ready to play Purdue."

"It almost seems there’s too much of a reverence there," Kelly added. "It’s Notre Dame Stadium, it’s a football game. Let’s have some energy. We talked about that today. We’ll continue to beat that drum."

The school launched its "Take A StaND" campaign Thursday, encouraging the 80,000-plus fans to participate more throughout the game, which has been a source of contention in the tug-of-war between students and older alumni and fans. The Irish will continue to play in-game music this season, too, an experiment that was launched during last year's night-game loss to USC, though the kinks were still being worked out then.

"I think we're getting there," Kelly, who had refused comment on the atmosphere earlier this week, said of the campaign. "I think if we do a better job in third down and get people off the field and score touchdowns, I think the place will go crazy. We've just got to get it to go crazy."

Notes: Kelly said there is no designated No. 2 quarterback for Saturday's home opener against Purdue, as Tommy Rees has returned from suspension this week to push Andrew Hendrix for the backup spot. … Carlo Calabrese, also back from suspension this week, will see reserve action Saturday. … Kelly is counting on playing USC transfer Amir Carlisle (ankle), who returned this week, but a redshirt is still a possibility. … Kelly's wife, Paqui, reached the five-year cancer-free mark Tuesday, a cause for celebration for the two-time breast cancer survivor, who saw cancer return at the four-year, eight-month mark last time: "We had a pretty big party on Tuesday. No spirits for me, I was up in the morning at 6 a.m. But it was pretty loud at my house on Tuesday," Brian Kelly said.
What began with preparations in January will culminate Tuesday night on the Notre Dame campus with the third annual "Football 101," a chance for women 21 and older to learn the game's fundamentals and history from the Irish staff. Dinner from upscale restaurants and raffles round out the night.

The Kelly Cares Foundation, started by Brian and Paqui Kelly, presents the event, which drew close to 600 people last year.

"There's the enthusiasm from the staff, it's a local event and everyone gets to be together," Paqui Kelly said. "It's a joint effort and a family atmosphere with a lot of familiar faces."

Paqui Kelly, a two-time breast cancer survivor, laid the groundwork for what was then known as the Kelly Family Foundation in 2007. Two years later, the Kellys started what would become known as the Kelly Cares Foundation, a non-profit focused on breast cancer education, prevention and research.

Paqui Kelly held similar events when her husband was coaching at Cincinnati, though the cause has drawn a bigger audience with the Notre Dame platform, something that comes as no surprise to her.

"In some ways I'm not" surprised, Paqui Kelly said. "With the Notre Dame affiliation, the fan base, it's a very giving group. With all of the community service that everyone here does, it is an easy and natural fit for the fans."

She said she has been helping her husband Brian recover recently, as the Irish head coach underwent surgery Thursday for a herniated disk in his lower back. She expects him to check in throughout the night to see how the event is going, as he will be unable to participate.

The best moments for Paqui Kelly remind her how lucky she is, as they will often come during side conversations when she hears stories from women participating for their deceased sisters, mothers or aunts.

"Those stories really hit close to home for me," she said. "I realize how fortunate I am. Those are hard to hear, and they become part of my passion for this."
Rock and roll band Chicago is dedicating its 2012 U.S. tour to Paqui Kelly, wife of Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly.

Paqui Kelly is a breast cancer survivor and close friend of the band. Proceeds will help the American Cancer Society.

Chicago has supported other charities lose to the Irish football program in the past, including the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation and Hannah & Friends, a foundation started by former head coach Charlie Weis and his wife, Maura, with the goal of providing a better quality of life for kids and young adults affected by Autism and Global Delays.

Paqui Kelly leading off the field

October, 18, 2011
In the week leading up to Notre Dame's Oct. 8 game against Air Force, Paqui Kelly had a much bigger task on her hands than simply preparing for the Falcons' triple-option offense.

She hosted a pair of golf outings — one in Grand Rapids, Mich., another two days later in South Bend, Ind. — and helped spread the message that may have helped save her life: be proactive.

The wife of Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly is a two-time breast cancer survivor, undergoing a double mastectomy in the spring of 2008. October, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, is of particular importance to the Kellys. Notre Dame's uniforms and accessories featured pink accents in its win over Air Force, and Brian Kelly wore pink ties to his midweek and postgame press conferences.

"We need to get the word out that it's not doomsday like it was 25 years ago," Paqui Kelly said.

The Kellys started what would in 2009 become known as the Kelly Cares Foundation, a non-profit focused on breast cancer education, prevention and research.

The groundwork was laid in 2007, when Brian Kelly was coaching at Cincinnati. But cancer soon returned to Paqui Kelly, putting the paperwork for what was originally the Kelly Family Foundation on the backburner.

"We just did two events a year, and it was very much smaller than what we're doing now," Paqui Kelly said. At Notre Dame, she added, "the platform's allowed us not to spend a whole lot of money on advertising, which can be very costly. So just the number of people we've been able to help has been pretty efficient."

In December 2002, a mammogram Paqui Kelly underwent on a doctor's recommendation revealed two cysts on her breast, which she was told to monitor for six months. She felt they were growing, returned in May and was diagnosed with breast cancer.

She waited to see if the cancer would return before choosing to undergo a double mastectomy, something two of her five sisters, Monie and Eli, had done between the first and second time she was diagnosed.

"Immensely," Paqui Kelly said when asked how much it helped to have her sisters to lean on.

She can also credit her light-hearted personality.

A mother of two boys and one girl, Paqui Kelly hosted a head-shaving party during her second battle with cancer, reasoning that her hair would eventually come out anyway.

"The two boys were like, 'Oh I get how funny this is,' and they were asking the neighbors' kids, 'C'mon, we're shaving Mom's head,' and tried to sell it,' " Paqui Kelly recalled with a laugh.

"I think that was a little more offbeat than most people do."

She said the first time the entire extended family saw her bald, at a buffet-style dinner, one of the kids had been grossed out by what appeared to be a piece of hair on one of the plates.

"It's not mine," Paqui Kelly replied, lightening the mood for everyone.

"I tell people I'm not making light of the seriousness of it, we just all handle things differently," she said. "Humor helps me through it and our family through it. Denial is one of those tools that doesn't work with cancer in any form."

Her husband has a humorous side, too, she said, but it comes out in different ways.

"His job doesn't allow for shenanigans, in terms of leading a team and an administrative staff in his type of position," Paqui Kelly said. "But he's quite able to be entertaining as well, just in his own little way. Sometimes it's more dry than a 'ba-dum' kind of deal."

Brian Kelly cannot help but turn serious when discussing the strength of his wife, who has now been cancer-free for four years.

Together, they have used their platform to spread awareness, hoping to, as Paqui Kelly puts it, be "the difference between a really long healing process or a story that doesn't end as well you hope."

"My best friend," Brian Kelly said of Paqui. "When you have those tough days you go and see her and it makes it a lot easier."

It's game day at Notre Dame Stadium

October, 8, 2011
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Greetings from Notre Dame Stadium, where the Fighting Irish will look to win their fourth straight game against an Air Force team that runs an offense that is anything but conventional.

Amidst all the blue and green today are plenty of pink accents, as Notre Dame is wearing the adidas Breast Cancer Collection to support October's National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Pink gloves, armbands, wristbands and headbands are part of the collection, and many of the players are currently warming up in long-sleeve navy and pink t-shirts. The coaching and support staff will be wearing hats, shirts and even socks that feature pink on them as well. And I've even seen a few pink towels and such on the Air Force side as the Falcons warm up, though they wear Nike apparel.

The cause is particularly big to the family of Brian Kelly, whose wife Paqui is a two-time breast cancer survivor. Kelly wore a pink tie to his weekly news conference Tuesday and helped put everything in perspective Thursday when talking about Paqui.

"My best friend," he said. "When you have those tough days you go and see her and it makes it a lot easier."

One other thing that stands out today is the 80-degree weather. Kelly joked Thursday he would try to pitch it as a 365-day-a-year occurrence to any recruits up for this contest.

We're about an hour away from kickoff, so don't go anywhere, as I will provide live analysis throughout the afternoon.

What to watch: Week 6 vs. Air Force

October, 6, 2011
Here's what to keep an eye out for Saturday when Notre Dame hosts Air Force:

  • Return of Danny Spond: The sophomore is expected to return as the second-team drop linebacker, behind Prince Shembo. Spond has not played since Week 2 at Michigan, where he tweaked his left hamstring.
  • Big play from Stephon Tuitt: The defensive ends may need to step up if starter Ethan Johnson (right ankle sprain) cannot go, and the freshman Tuitt is one who could see extended playing time. Tuitt did not travel last week after failing to meet Brian Kelly's missed class policy, but Kelly has been impressed with the freshman's response throughout the week, including Tuitt's apology to the team for letting it down.
  • A pink theme: Notre Dame will be wearing the adidas Breast Cancer Collection, apparel created to support October's National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Players will wear pink gloves, along with pink armbands, wristbands and headbands. Kelly's wife, Paqui, is a two-time breast cancer survivor.


'College Football Live' Extra: Biggest Plays
Ed Cunningham and Brock Huard offer up their choices for the most important and season-changing plays of the 2014 college football regular season.


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