Boston's Irish Invasion
Notre Dame equipment manager Ryan Grooms knew exactly what he wanted for this year's Shamrock Series jersey. With the Irish heading to Boston this weekend to face Boston College at Fenway Park in their annual Shamrock Series game, Grooms and Under Armour senior creative director of team sports Adam Clement wanted to come up with a uniform that told the story of both Notre Dame and Boston.
The answer? Green. Lots and lots of green.
In addition to an all-green uniform, shiny gold helmets will display the Fighting Irish leprechaun, while players will be issued new cleats with a gold and green pattern.
"With the whole idea of Boston being green from head to toe, we wanted to pay tribute to that," says Grooms, who has been Notre Dame's equipment manager since 2010. "We also wanted the leprechaun to be heavily involved so this one was almost like a no-brainer."
Courtesy of Notre Dame Athletics
Saturday's game will mark the seventh time Notre Dame has worn a special jersey for its annual Shamrock Series matchup, which started in 2009. Even though the Irish have sported green jerseys over the years, including in 2002 when undefeated and No. 4-ranked Notre Dame busted-out green jerseys before being upset by Boston College 14-7, the Irish have never worn an all-green uniform like they will wear in the shadow of Fenway's Green Monster Saturday night.
"There's the obvious Irish heritage Notre Dame shares with Boston, but part of the reason we went green on green is because they're playing at Fenway Park, which is known for one thing, The Green Monster," says Clement. "What better way to tip your cap to that than to have Notre Dame come out as green monsters?"
But as Clement points out, the jersey isn't just about the color; it also tells a story. For example, there are 11 stripes on the chest representing Notre Dame's 11 national championships. Also, part of the inspiration for this year's jersey came from a painting by award-winning artist and Notre Dame alumnus Revere La Noue. "The Original Fighting Irish, Pride and Courage" depicts blue-collar Irish-Americans with no faces but all standing together as one "team." The painting hangs in Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly's office, and much of Boston's heritage is rooted in Irish-Americans like those in the painting, which led to "Fighting Irish" being spelled out on the pants.
"It speaks to the idea of brotherhood and hard work, and hard work as a team," says Clement. "That painting in a sense links back to the heritage of Boston as well, with its Irish ancestry. We wanted to tell a two-part story here, and that's Notre Dame history and also the history of the Boston."
Print of "The Original Fighting Irish, Pride and Courage" by Revere La Noue
The Shamrock Series began as a home-away-from-home game to bring the unique South Bend game day experience to other cities across the country. Past games have been at The Alamodome (San Antonio), Yankee Stadium (New York City), FedEx Field (Washington, D.C.), Soldier Field (Chicago), AT&T Stadium (Dallas) and Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis). It will return to San Antonio next year. For the first five seasons of the Shamrock Series, Notre Dame was under contract with Adidas, at which time Grooms said he would have to go through several renditions of the jersey choice each year. But in January 2014, Notre Dame signed a 10-year sponsorship and supply deal with Under Armour, which, according to ESPN, is worth $90 million and is the biggest deal in collegiate sports. In the two Shamrock Series since then, and for next year's game, Clement only had to submit one idea and Grooms loved it so much that he only had to make a few slight changes before moving forward with it.
In Saturday's game, the Eagles will also be wearing special uniforms of their own, which will be a throwback to the '80s and the Dough Flutie-era. Boston College will wear solid gold-colored helmets and the pants are very close in color to the team's look from the '80s. The jerseys will also feature a classic Boston College logo near the chest. While the scene of both teams in special jerseys on the same sideline will be a neat picture, the teams did not collaborate together (Notre Dame's primetime game at Michigan in 2011 was the one time the Irish have collaborated on jerseys with an opponent).
But with new jerseys comes new challenges for those involved. Grooms said his No. 1 priority is player safety, so he needs to make sure the new helmets still fit the players perfectly in addition to making sure the shoes are all broken in. But in the end, he said seeing sights like he has, and will see Saturday, make it all worth it.
"These jerseys are my favorite [Shamrock Series jerseys] and this will be my first time seeing those all out on the field, so I'm really excited about that," says Grooms. "Walking out to Fenway, which I've never been to, I think it'll be pretty cool and special. I'm really looking forward to seeing this whole green get-up."