Reflections from the Dome

After suffering severe wounds in France during WWI, Dave made an extraordinary effort to not only play football with his team in 1919 but to graduate with his class in 1920.

After suffering severe wounds in France during WWI, Dave made an extraordinary effort to not only play football with his team in 1919 but to graduate with his class in 1920.


This month's edition of Reflections from the Dome is an article on Dave Hayes' life at Notre Dame, on the gridiron and off. The article is  from The Hartford Sun. (Article provided by the University of Notre Dame Archives)

Dave Hayes of Notre Dame

Football Player Who Worked Way Through College Is Successful Hartford Merchant.

By Frank Graham

At the recent Rockne Memorial dinner in New York the Rev. Father Matthew J. Walsh, former president of Notre Dame, told a story of Dave Hayes. It was a story of a boy who beat his way to South Bend, arrived penniless, worked his way through the university and found time not only to keep up with his studies but to play football -- and who, on the day after he was graduated donated two hundred and fifty dollars he had earned and, penniless as on the day he arrived, beat his way back home.

The story was retold in these columns and many readers of the Sun, struck by the spirit and courage of the boy, have asked what became of him. "Where is he now?" they have asked. And "Has he prospered?" The answer to the first question is: "Here in Hartford." And to the second: "Yes, how could he miss?"

Dave Hayes now in his early thirties, was graduated in 1920. For six years he played professional football, coached school teams and, even as he had done during his university days, worked at one job and another. Five years ago , having put together a small capital, he entered the coal business here. >From year to year his business has increased and today he is one of Hartford's best know and most substantial citizens.

Dave is five feet seven inches tall, weighs 170 pounds and keeps himself fit by regular exercise and by watching his diet as carefully as he did when he was playing football. His hair is dark, his eyes are blue. In his strong well-molded features may be read the character of the man. He is, in short, a fighter - and he looks it.

He listened silently to a retelling of Father Walsh's story. At the finish he said: "I wish he hadn't said anything about the two hundred and fifty dollars. After all they had been great to me at school and I felt - and still feel - that I owed them something. As for the rest of it, it was all fun and I certainly got more out of my time at Notre Dame than I put into it. I had the friendship of Rockne, for one thing, and no man ever had a better friend than Rock. I went to him with all my problems, as any boy at Notre Dame could do, and he never failed to help me. And I made friends among the other students - fellows like Joe Brandy, for instance - who are my friends today.

'Rides the Blind' from Albany.

"Father Walsh said, as you have told me, that I went to Notre Dame because I had heard of Rockne. That's true. I've played football ever since I was old enough to know what it was all about and Notre Dame was turning out some great football teams, so, although I was born in Manchester, right close to here, and grew up in this vicinity, I decided to go to Notre Dame. I didn't have enough money to get there or to pay for my board and tuition when I got there but that didn't matter.

I put the few extra clothes I had into a small grip and sent it by express to South Bend. Then I bought a pair of overalls to wear over my every day suit, hitch hiked across to Albany and caught the Twentieth Century Limited there. I'll admit the conductor and train crew didn't know I was on he train. I rode the 'blind' and if you don't think there's a thrill on riding the 'blind' on the Century, try it some time. The Century doesn't stop at South Bend so I had to go on to Elkhart and steal a ride back..

"The day I arrived I confided to one of the members of the faculty I met on the campus that I wanted to enter school but didn't have any money, and he wasn't at all encouraging. He told me the best thing I could do was to go right back home, but I shook off that advice. I'd come a long way and I liked the place. Besides, if I went home I'd be broke just the same, so I thought I might as well stay where I was and see the thing through. Then I saw Father Walsh. I told him of my circumstances, and he said that if I could find a job so that I could pay for my board he would arrange for me to get a scholarship - provided I could manage an average of 80 percent in my studies. I had never had averaged that before and I knew it would be a struggle for me, but I felt it was worth struggling for and I promised him I would.

Works as Dishwasher

"The next thing was to get a job. I found a restaurant in South Bend where many of the students used to eat when they were in town and told my story to the proprietor. He was very sympathetic and offered me a job washing dishes from 6 to 9 every night in the week for $3 a week in cash, my meals and a room over the restaurant.  I accepted so quickly it toom his breath away. Now I was set in every respect except one. I didn't have the money to pay for my books.

"I reported as a candidate for the freshmen team the next day. I had been late in getting to school and the squad had already been out for a week. I weighed only 155 pounds then, and that first day I was like a sapling in a forest of oaks. Nobody noticed me, and I did little except to put on a uniform, run around a little while and take it off. The next day, Fitzgerald the freshmen coach, set the end candidates to work getting down the field under punts and tackling the receiver. I hung back during the first round of punts because I wanted to look over the punters and see which of them kicked long and high. I was very fast in those days, but I knew I had to make good in a hurry and I wanted every edge I could get in my favor. I watched a high punter that would give me all the time I needed to get down the field. I picked out my man, and the next time he got ready to punt I was at the head of the line. As the ball was passed back to him I started, and as the receiver caught the ball I was leaving my feet in a diving tackle that brought him down with a bang.

"Hey," Fitzgerald yelled, 'Where have you been all week?' "I told him I had just arrived. " 'Well' he said 'stick around. I want you.'

After practice I took Fitzgerald aside. I told him I had a job and a place to eat and sleep and that I was going to get a scholarship but that I didn't have any money to pay for my books and asked him what I could do about that.

Rockne Looks Him Up

"That night, as I was polishing off the dishes the boss told me that Rockne was out in the restaurant and wanted to see me. I almost dropped the dish I was washing. Rockne coming down to see a punk kid like me? For a moment I thought I was being kidded, but he assured me he was telling the truth. I wiped my hands, took off my apron and hustled out. Sure enough, there sat Rock at one of the tables. He asked me to sit down and tell him my story and I did. When I had finished he said: "Go to the office and tell them I will underwrite you on your books. They'll give them to you and you can pay for them a little at a time as you go along."

"I was sitting on top of the world! A scholarship, a place to eat and sleep, and arrangement whereby I could buy my books on the installment plan and a place on the freshmen team! On the freshmen team with me, by the way, were George Gipp and Joe Brandy, and it was during that season in a game with Western Reserve that Gipp kicked a 62 yard field goal. From that far out I naturally expected him to punt and tore down the field to nail the receiver. Then I saw the ball clear the cross bar and heard the crowd cheering and it dawned on me that he had drop kicked a field goal!

"About half way through the season in a practice scrimmage with the varsity big McInerney, varsity tackle who was killed in the war a year or so later, stepped on my right hand. His cleats cut through two blood vessels and I thought for a minute that my hand would never stop bleeding. In those days we had only two remedies for injuries: hot water for sprains and iodine for cuts and bruises, so Rock, who was coach, doctor, trainer and general overseer, stopped the bleeding, dabbed the wound with iodine and told me I'd be all right. I was - but I couldn't wash dishes with a hand like that, which meant losing my room and board.

" 'Where am I going to eat?' I asked him. 'You'll eat at the training table,' he said.  'And where will I sleep?' 'Sleep in the boathouse.' he said.

Making a Room in Boat House.


Dave's private abode on the lake

Dave's private abode on the lake.

"The boathouse, on the shore of St. Joseph's Lake, was built in about 1860. There was, of course, no heat in it and winter was coming on. So I got some beaver board and partitioned off a room for myself in one corner. Then I began to raid the storehouse and the rooms of my friends for furniture. I got a cot, a table and a couple of chairs and another fellow helped me to carry off a stove from the junk in the storehouse kept by Brother Hugh, a famous character around the campus. Soon I was as comfortably situated as anybody in the school and my quarters became a favorite rendevous for my friends. Once again I was on top of the world even though the 'top of the world' was a cold spot when I'd get up in the morning with the fire dead in the stove.

"I finished out that school year, worked through the summer around here and went back in the fall of 1917 to make the varsity. Tom King was the other end on that team. The tackles were Dave Philbin and Bodie Andrews, the guards were Cy Degree and Clyde Zoia and the center was Slip Madigan. Brandy was the quarterback, Pete Bahan and Gipp were the halfbacks and the fullback was Walter Miller. Jimmy Phelan was the quarterback in the start of the season but he played in only two games and then went off to war and Brandy stepped into his place. And here let me say that Gipp was the greatest football player I ever saw, and, with due respect to Carideo, Brandy was the greatest Notre Dame quarterback. He couldn't handle the ball as Stuhldreher and Carideo could, but he was the master of either of them at running the team, which after all, is the most important job for a Notre Dame quarterback.

We had a small squad that year but a good team and were beaten only by Nebraska. And here's something I never have seen in print or heard talked about even by Rockne: We went to West Point that year with only fifteen players and beat the Army 7 to 2, using only the eleven men who started the game.

Wounded in France

"In 1918 I left school, got into the army and went overseas as a replacement in an infantry unit drafted from the mountains of Tennessee and Kentucky. I was wounded twice - once getting a bayonet through my right wrist in a night trench raid and again getting hit in the left leg when we were clearing out two machine gun crews that had held us up for a couple of hours. The pain from the bullet wound was so bad I became delirious and must have been then that I wanted to know, as Father Walsh tells it, where all the Notre Dame men were. It happened, as he said, that a Notre Dame man - Dr. Roth - was at the dressing station where they took me and he looked after me until I was allowed to rejoin my outfit after four months in various hospitals.

"But I was all right by the time the 1919 season got under way, even if I was slower than before. We went unbeaten through 1919 and 1920, with Gipp developing into a wonderful back and Brandy running the team better as Rock himself used to say than any quarterback he ever had. Gipp had the greatest nerve and the coolest head of any ball carrier I ever saw and it was his habit to direct the men who were blocking for him as he broke through the line of scrimmage and got into the clear.

" 'Never mind this fellow,' he'd say as an opposing back would move in on us, 'I'll take care of him myself. You get that fellow and you Hayes take the safety man.

"Brandy, who by the way, is running a newspaper in Ogdensburg, N.Y. now, had two virtues that made him an outstanding quarterback at a school where a first rate quarterback is essential to the success of the system. One was his sound knowledge of the game, the Rockne system and the other was the relation of one play to another.


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