The Story of Heelan & Notre Dame QB Mike Courey - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports


The Story of Heelan & Notre Dame QB Mike Courey

QB Mike Courey warms up during a game at Notre Dame. QB Mike Courey warms up during a game at Notre Dame.

On the field, Mike Courey was a natural.

"Mike could do anything basically," said Joe Conlon. "He was shifty, elusive and when he went down the line you never knew if he was going to take the ball or he was going to pitch it out to one of the running backs."

"Mike was the man to have on your side because he could make things work," said Mark Krapfl.

As a junior at Heelan, Courey quarterbacked the Crusaders to the 1975 state championship. That led to scholarship offers at several big-time college programs, including Notre Dame, which he accepted.

"We used to watch Notre Dame games on Saturday's and just kind of dream about that and his dream came true," said Krapfl.

"It meant a lot to Mike but it meant so much to his day," said Conlon. "His dad was a lifelong Notre Dame fan. I think there was no place else for Mike."

In 1977, Joe Montana led the Irish to the national championship. Courey -- number-2 -- saw action as a freshman wide receiver. As a senior three years later, he beat out four other quarterbacks to earn the starting job.

Announcer says, "After weeks of speculation, Mike Courey emerged as the starting quarterback".

In Courey's first start against Purdue, he completed 10 of 13 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown. He ran for 59 more yards with another score.

Announcer says, "The senior from Sioux City, Iowa, performed skillfully."

Mike says, "We came out in the third quarter and it was a very important drive. 

"To see somebody that you actually saw in high school and grew up in your neighborhood, it was just unbelievable," said Conlon.

Courey was the MVP of the game on national TV. Everyone thought the job was his.

"A look at Mike Courey, who has seemingly locked up the starting quarterback job for the Irish," said Keith Jackson.

The praise from his coach was more luke-warm.

"Mike has done a good job," Dan Devine said.

Courey's head coach at Notre Dame was Dan Devine, who was notoriously fickle with his quarterbacks. Even after Courey won his first three starts, Devine replaced him with freshman quarterback Blair Keil. Even though Keil didn't throw a single touchdown pass over the final nine games of the season, Courey never started another game for the Fighting Irish.

"I know Mike was disappointed and so were all of us," said Conlon. "He thought he earned it. He thought it was his time. When that was taken away from him that was a huge disappointment for him."

"We tried asking him, 'doesn't this make you angry, doesn't this bite?'," said Krapfl. "He wouldn't say anything. He would say 'I just got to try a little bit harder."

Courey still got into games.

"There's Mike Courey warming up on the sideline."

He started the second half in a loss at USC. His lack of playing time was a mystery.

"You know, whatever happened to Mike Courey. Why isn't Mike Courey playing?," said Conlon.

Keith Jackson, "Let's see if the senior from Sioux City, Iowa, can re-vitalize the Notre Dame offense."

But the Irish went 2-2 and 1 in their last four games and finished 9th in the national rankings. Courey's senior season -- and his football career were over.

"I think he really loved Notre Dame," said Conlon. "It was just an unfortunate circumstance that he was in. Sometimes that happens between a coach and a player, especially when you're at quarterback. I don't know if Mike knew for sure why it happened.

Courey got his degree in business administration from Notre Dame in 1981. He spent many years as a house painter in Sioux City. In 2006, he found out he had cancer -- he died a year and a half later at the age of 48.

"When they told him there wasn't a lot they could do for him, like anybody that's a difficult thing to hear," said Conlon.

"Even though his life was coming to an end and he knew it, he just took it in stride," said Krapfle.

 He was just a regular guy, wanted to be a regular guy. He just happened to be a regular guy that had a lot of athletic ability. Everybody liked him. He was just somebody you wouldn't forget."


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