You never can be sure about the breaks in life and sometimes you have to wait for your big chance and then grab it. I was reminded of that yesterday while trying to find the news on TV and instead saw half a minute of Notre Dame football. Things were not going well for the Irish and that fired a memory of a time 32 years ago when it was the same way. I was covering a game at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Indiana and the way Purdue was manhandling the visitors it seemed like they should have stayed home in South Bend. Notre Dame was sluggish so the starting quarterback was replaced by the second-stringer, a young man named Gary Forystek. The Irish showed a bit more life, but not much. Then some law of physics must have entered the picture when Forystek was hit and brought down. You could hear the cracking of bones all the way up in the enclosed press box. Half an hour went by while the doctors of both schools worked on the unconscious Forystek. They finally got him onto a backboard, an ambulance drove onto the field and he was taken away, his career ended and almost his life.
No one would be singing The Victory March that day. What though the odds be great or small - well they don't get much greater than ten points behind, a lifeless offense, just over ten minutes left on the clock and then a third-string quarterback trotting onto the field. A couple of wags in the press box cracked wise about his unusual name and how far the Irish search for help had gone.
Then a funny thing happened. That third-stringer began firing laser-like passes. His presence seemed to have lit a fire under the entire team. He passed for a touchdown, an inspired defense stopped Purdue in its tracks, Notre Dame had the ball again and marched down the field for another TD. The Victory March was heard after all.
With that former third-stringer leading the way the Irish won the rest of their games and then trounced top-rated Texas in a bowl game. A couple of years later he was in the NFL and kept right on winning. He led his team to four Super Bowl championships and today his bust is in the pro football Hall of Fame in Canton.
Oh yes, the name they were laughing about in the press box that day in 1977 was Joe Montana.
So it was a bad break - a broken back among those broken bones - for Gary Forystek but a good one for Notre Dame and that third-stringer who stood on the sidelines waiting for his chance. When it came he was ready.