There's a reason so many people were so sad to see Dayne Crist leave Notre Dame — and, consequently, why they were so happy to see him get a second chance at another school. The man is that nice, and, by all accounts, as good a teammate as one could hope for. I got to talk to him only once in my first year on the Notre Dame beat (his preseason news conference after being named starter), but I was able to catch up with the new Kansas quarterback earlier this month over the phone.
Here's our conversation.
How are you liking Lawrence so far?
Dayne Crist: It's been great. We had fan appreciation day today so it was nice to have. Any time you can practice in the stadium with a live audience, it's a lot more fun. So it was fun today.
What was that like? I'd imagine it's a different atmosphere from Notre Dame.
DC: It's been great. The fans and the community in Lawrence have been really warm and receptive to me and me being here and have really made the transition pretty easy. But I've just enjoyed my time here, and just love being with the guys and competing and just excited for the fall.
How nice has it been to have [former Irish teammates] Mike [Ragone] and Anthony [McDonald] go through this with you?
DC: It's been great. I think they're both very driven guys and you can tell just the way, how they prepare, how they play and stuff, how important it is to them. And it's nice to have some familiar faces, so it's been great thus far.
The program there has obviously fallen on some tough times in recent years. Are you invigorated by becoming essentially the foundation for trying to turn it around?
DC: I am, and I think that there's a great opportunity here to turn this thing around, and it's very exciting. As a player, as a competitor, sometimes you like being an underdog, and sometimes you like being part of that trend that changes things. So I'm very excited for this year.
How excited were you to be reunited with Charlie Weis?
DC: It really is a blessing in disguise. I'm very excited to be back with Coach. I can't thank him enough for this opportunity. I'm very fortunate and grateful and just feel really blessed to be here, but now it's time to go to work, and we're excited to do that.
How much trust has he put in the former Notre Dame guys in becoming the voices for the team?
DC: Well, I think it's more just we can really act as liaisons between Coach Weis and the team, because the relationship with Coach Weis and the team will continue to grow, and those guys really don't know him as well yet, and are continuing to get to know him. There's so much leadership on this team that we're not really the voice of the team. We're just guys working with him, we're all teammates here. There's not one voice taking precedence over another, but the leadership here has been great so far.
Is Coach Weis very similar to what you remember, or has he mellowed a little bit?
DC: He's always going to be the same guy and have the same core values and beliefs. That's something that I love and respect about the guy. At the same time you can definitely tell that he's very seasoned, he's seen some things and changed a couple things in his approach and preparation and things like that. But he's still the same guy and cares about his players, and we're just excited to be here and get to work with a guy that we once knew.
How grateful are you for this last chance with your old coach?
DC: I'm as grateful as one can be. It's crazy, but I've always been someone that lives by the mantra that everything happens for a reason, and you can't write it up any moreso than this. I'm just so grateful, so blessed for this opportunity, and you've just got to control the things you can control. There's been some things with injuries that were out of my control but with the things I can control I fully plan on taking advantage of those opportunities.
What have been the biggest differences between the programs and atmospheres from when you were at Notre Dame?
DC: Well, I mean the schools are just so very different by nature. You're talking a small private school, 8,000 kids, to public, 26,000 kids. So the campus is much bigger and much different. I'll always have a special place in my heart for Notre Dame, and I'm very fortunate and blessed to have graduated from there and had the opportunity to go to school there and play football there. But I'm fully invested in Kansas right now, and I'm just very excited to get going with my teammates this fall.
What would constitute a successful season in your mind?
DC: We want to play in a bowl game, and I think that's been a team goal of ours since we started the spring, really. And as a competitor, as a football player, why wouldn't you? So we're very internally motivated. We don't really care what the outside world thinks, and we just want to do everything we can in our power to get to a bowl game and win a bowl game.