Jerry Barca '99 | October 15, 2018
Pat Terrell 90’s phone will buzz with text messages today. People on Facebook will tag him in photos and posts. They will remind him of a moment frozen in their minds, Terrell jumping, arms extended, batting away a Miami Hurricanes pass.
Meanwhile in a Chicago suburb, amid a bustling morning of making breakfasts and school lunches, Terrell will take the handoff from his wife. Three of their five children will pile into the family SUV. Terrell will pick up a few of the kids’ friends and drive the bunch to two different schools. Nobody ever pictures the hero driving the carpool, but that’s the reality.
To legions of Fighting Irish fans, Terrell will always be a legend. He’s the guy who made that play when Notre Dame upset the No. 1-ranked defending national champion Miami Hurricanes.
Thirty years ago today, on that warm sunny afternoon, I was an 11-year-old standing on a wooden bleacher in the 59th row of the 60-row student section. My bare chest had been painted with a No. 42 for Michael Stonebreaker '90. I had flown out to the game alone on Piedmont Airlines, even traversing the Pittsburgh airport to catch a connecting flight. I stood in those stands next to my brother, who was a senior. With less than a minute left to play, Miami scored a touchdown to cut the Irish lead to 31-30. The Hurricanes decided to go for the win and attempt a two-point conversion. As Miami lined up, I reached down into one of my tube socks and pulled out an Immaculate Heart of Mary medal. My grandmother had given it to me to keep me safe during my travels. Praying for Notre Dame to make the stop, I held that medal with both hands and pointed it toward the south end zone. There, Terrell answered my — and I’m guessing a lot of other Notre Dame fans’ — prayers. He knocked down the pass from Miami quarterback Steve Walsh. The Irish beat their vaunted foe and went on to win the national championship.
There were so many big plays in that game: Frank Stams '89’s sacks of Walsh, Chris Zorich '91’s fumble recovery, the Irish stopping a Miami fake punt, Tony Rice’s touchdown, Rice’s long pass to Ricky Watters, walk-on Pat Eilers '89’s stumbling two-yard scoring run, and even Terrell had another big play. He returned an interception for a touchdown.
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