Mike Collins: The voice of Notre Dame Stadium
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Notre Dame alum Mike Collins has been the public address announcer at Notre Dame Stadium for the last three decades. Even after all these years, he still gets nervous before each game.
"One of the things I'm proudest of is almost by chance, I'm the one who came up with 'here come the Irish' which is now being used at almost every sporting event," Collins said.
Before Collins made 'here come the Irish' a household phrase he was a Catholic kid from Pittsburgh following his dad's orders to attend the University of Notre Dame.
"63 67. Ara came and started coaching my sophomore year, so I saw the turn around of Notre Dame football. We could hardly believe it as it was happening. We thought at first it was just some pure luck and then they kept winning and they kept winning," Collins said.
He was the sports director of Notre Dame's student station calling hockey and basketball.
While he considered himself a sports fan he was a news man at heart.
"I was anchoring the news at the age of 22, every night. That was my first full time job," Collins said.
Collins was a respected news anchor in Michiana for years.
But in 1982, the opportunity of a lifetime came calling.
"As far as anyone knows, there's only been three Public Address announcers at Notre Dame Stadium. And my predecessor had been there for some time and just two days before the start of the 1982 season, he made the decision to retire. So, the sports information director at the time decided to call me and said, I swear, I was at work and said, 'Can you work the game Saturday?' And I said 'Yes.' And I never told him that I had never worked football in any way before," Collins said.
Notre Dame vs Michigan in prime time.
"I wasn't going to say no under any circumstances and I'm sure glad I did not say no," Collins said.
That one yes turned into 215 consecutive Notre Dame games and counting.
In 1993, in what would later be dubbed the 'game of the century' Collins truly discovered his voice.
"It was the Florida State game in the 90s and I'm pumped up and when they came out of the tunnel, I just blurt it out at the top of my lungs, 'Here Come the Irish.' I didn't think another thing. After the game, I went back to my car and my wife said 'Boy, I sure like that.' And I said, 'Like what?' And she said 'Here come the Irish. You should do that every game.' So I thought about it and said, 'I will.' And that's how it started," Collins said.
"It invigorated the crowd. And it was an exciting game, a huge build up to start with and that was the icing on the cake and that really set everything off," said Melissa Collins, Mike Collins' wife.
While Collins has called more than 200 games, he gets just as nervous today as he did 35 years ago.
"I am on pins and needles. I'm not that pleasant to be around Saturday morning. I think it's good to have that feeling," Collins said.
That nervous energy doesn't last long and soon he settles in.
"I tell you when I'm fine. Once I open up the microphone and say 'Here Come the Irish.' once that kickoff is done, it gets into a routine," Collins said.
Collins has his game day routine down pat from his throat lozenges to his pronunciation guide, his fedora and pre game banter.
The booth is his sanctuary and while it's a scene he has witnessed so many times, it is ever changing.
Game after game he settles in and welcomes you to Notre Dame.
"People tell me when I come on, if I say 'Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.' They said that in their mind cues them that we're about to start. It's amazing how 'Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen' can get such a round of applause. I didn't know that could happen,"
Collins is 72 now and admits he has considered life after Notre Dame.
"Retirement. Of course you think about it. Every human being does. I'm constantly analyzing myself. I'll know before anyone else, I'll give Notre Dame fair warning. The only thing I keep thinking is, Father Hesburgh retired at 75. So why can't the PA announcer?" Collins said.
But for now, Collins is happy right where he is and he has a lot more games to call.
"I always keep in mind that there some people out there who may be at Notre Dame for the first time. They deserve my very best effort. My very best," Collins said.