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Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly isn't breaking ground in leading the Fighting Irish onto the cusp of a national championship. Others have done that. However, he did achieve a feat on Wednesday that no other coach in his position ever has.
After leading the top-ranked Irish to a perfect 12-0 regular season, Kelly was named as the recipient of the Walter Camp 2012 Coach of the Year. He is the first in program history to earn the distinction.
Kelly recently spoke of what has made this year and team so special.
"I'm very proud of my staff and all the players," Kelly said. "And when you talk about pride, you talk about pride from within. In other words, all of our players know, as well as our coaches, what we had to sacrifice to get to this point."
I've said this a number of times: what we have done this year more than anything else is our guys care about each other. I'm not going to say they hang out together every one of them and they love each other, but they really care about each other. When you care about each other you have a chance to be a good football team."
The honor is selected by the nation's 124 Football Bowl Subdivision head
coaches and sports information directors.
Under Kelly's direction, Notre Dame has earned its first Discover BCS Bowl
Championship Game appearance and will meet No. 2 Alabama (12-1) Monday in Miami (ESPN, 8:30 p.m.).
The Irish have not gone unbeaten since 1988 and this season highlights included victories over ranked teams at the time the Fighting Irish played them: Michigan, Michigan State, Stanford and Oklahoma.
As a team, Notre Dame leads the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 10.3 points per game, while ranking sixth in total defense, allowing 286.83 yards per contest. The Fighting Irish rank fourth in rushing defense (92.4 yards allowed per game).
Several Notre Dame players earned 2012 All-America accolades from the Walter Camp Foundation, including senior linebacker Manti Te'o, who was a First Team honoree and was selected as the 2012 Walter Camp Player of
the Year – the third defensive player to earn the award.
Three other Irish players – senior tight end Tyler Eifert, senior offensive lineman Zack Martin and sophomore defensive end Stephon Tuitt – were Second Team All-America honorees.
In Kelly's three seasons in South Bend, he is 28-10 (.733) and is headed for Notre Dame's first national championship game appearance in 23 years.
Prior to his arrival in South Bend, Kelly was the head coach at three schools – Cincinnati (2007-09), Central Michigan (2004-06) and Grand Valley State (1991-2003).
Kelly has now been selected as coach of the year by four different organizations in the last month. These include Home Depot, FWAA/Eddie Robinson and the Associated Press in addition to Walter Camp.
"That (togetherness) came together this year," Kelly said. "They care about each other in the locker room, and then they learned how to play the game the right way. So there is a lot of pride because there is a lot of work behind the scenes that go to those two things in particular, those guys caring about each other and playing the game the right way."