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  • Writer's pictureTerry O'Neil

Notre Dame Legend Funds Illinois Campaign

PLP founder Terry O'Neil presented yesterday in Champaign, IL, to the Board of Directors of the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association (IHSFCA).  Illinois high school football has lost 25% participation since 2007.  The IHSFCA pledged to consider contact reduction as a signal to parents and other stakeholders that the game is changing.

In support, Practice Like Pros will make five Illinois appearances from February through April.  This campaign is being funded by a donation from the rock band Chicago, whose manager, Peter Schivarelli, is a former Notre Dame lineman with a legendary life story.

Graduating from Chicago's St. Ignatius Prep in 1963, Schivarelli was a powerful, 250-pound force but, at 5-feet-10, didn't fit the profile of a D-1 prospect so, instead of college, he took a civil service job and opened a fast-food restaurant.

Schivarelli's dream had been to play at Notre Dame, and he lived it vicariously through a boyhood friend, Joe Marsico, an offensive guard who was recruited to play for the Irish from Chicago's Fenwick High School.  Marsico roomed with All-America DT Alan Page.  Sleeping on their floor many nights was Schivarelli.

Seeing him frequently among the team, Notre Dame Head Coach Ara Parseghian became curious about Schivarelli and asked what he was doing.  When Pete raved about the success of his hot dog stand, Ara shook his head and said, "You're making a mistake.  You need a degree.  Get yourself into school here and you can be a walk-on with us."

This went on for four years!  Finally, Parseghian showed his Armenian temper:  "Dammit, Peter, what the hell is it going to take for you to understand?  Get your ass enrolled here."

So in 1967, four years after high school graduation, at the age of 22, Schivarelli became a Notre Dame freshman, counting out a fistful of $100 bills at the registrar's office, paying his tuition in cash.  He quickly became the hardest-working player on the ND scout team, a favorite of teammates and classmates, alike.

In 1969, Schivarelli's junior season, Parseghian began dressing him for home games -- sometimes in preference to scholarship players -- and substituting him to the crowd's delight once the outcome had been decided.

"I was like Red Auerbach," says Pete.  "You remember how Red used to light up a victory cigar on the Boston Celtics' bench when a game was won?  When I went into the game, you knew we had won."

During Schivarelli's Notre Dame years, one of the soundtracks of college life was a new band called Chicago.  These were a group of Chicago-area musicians whose novel idea was to add horns -- trumpet, trombone, cornet, flugelhorn -- to traditional rock and pop.  Schivarelli knew some of them as teen-agers and was thrilled when their debut double-album went platinum in 1969-70.

After graduation, Pete stayed close to the band and to Notre Dame Football.  Years passed.  Schivarelli, instinctive and engaging, was a natural entrepreneur.  Chicago released hit after hit, became one of the best-selling music acts of all-time, toured the world and realized it needed strong leadership.  In 1986, the band asked Schivarelli to become its manager.

In 1994, Parseghian was devastated to learn that three of his grandchildren were diagnosed with a fatal genetic disorder.  Schivarelli scheduled Chicago to play benefit concerts and led fund raising for research.  Sadly, it was too late for the Parseghian grandchildren.  They succumbed in 1997, 2001 and 2005.

Through this ordeal, watching Ara suffer and persevere, Schivarelli vowed to memorialize his mentor......not after death, but now, immediately.  Notre Dame had never authorized a statue of a living person, but Pete was determined that Ara would be the first.  After seven years of meetings and approvals, a statue was dedicated outside Notre Dame Stadium in 2007.  It is fashioned on the 1971 Cotton Bowl photo above.  Schivarelli is wearing jersey number 68.

Ara passed away in 2017 at the age of 94.  For the memorial service/tribute at Notre Dame's Joyce Center, the family was asked to select one player to speak on behalf of the hundreds Ara coached at Miami, Ohio (1951-55), Northwestern (1956-63) and Notre Dame (1964-74).  Of all the All-Americas, All-Pros, Super Bowl champions and Hall of Famers, the Parseghian family chose the colorful, unlikely walk-on from Chicago whose life more than any other was shaped by Ara -- Peter Schivarelli.


Ohio High School Thrives with Limited Contact

The New York Times last week profiled the football program at Marion Local High School in Maria Stein, OH, which is bucking state and national trends of declining participation.  One of the reasons, according to The Times, is limited-contact practice.  Here's an excerpt from the story:

...the Flyers practice in full pads only twice a week and are not allowed to hit beyond a “controlled thud.” One of (Head Coach Tim) Goodwin’s rules is not putting a player in a position where he will hit the ground in practice.

To read The New York Times story, click here.


"Giving Tuesday" Appeal Continues

The Practice Like Pros annual "Giving Tuesday" appeal is underway this month.  Donations will fund PLP's off-season national tour to bring contact reduction to all 50 states.  PLP is an IRS-approved 501(c)(3), EN #46-2994162, so your gift is 100% tax deductible. 

Checks are being accepted at:

Practice Like Pros P.O. Box 1066 Weston, CT  06883

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