One theme that stood out in all of the articles was the alarmingly large representation of Notre Dame fans over seas. The ND Bookstore donated several thousand 2007 student shirts (most of which Weis autographed), and they were readily accepted by the plethora of Notre Dame fans that coach encountered:
There were kids from South Bend. There were kids from Mishawaka, kids from Fort Wayne. [. . .] You’re in the middle of signing [autographs] for people in this long line, and you hear this voice saying “Yeah, I went to John Adams. If you’re going to my house, you turn off Twyckenham…” Here in the Middle of the desert!
In addition to home grown Irish fans, Weis also has several good stories about ND grads from the rest of the country that he ran into over the course of the trip. One of my favorite stories, however, was actually about a USC fan:
Not everyone here is a Notre Dame fan, now. I have run into a whole bunch of Michigan fans, but Saturday it was a USC fan who really got my attention. This USC fan has a wife who is a Notre Dame fan. She's back in Scranton, Pa. He comes up for a picture (Saturday) night. He's got on a USC football shirt, and I refused to take the picture with him.
He goes, "C'mon coach, you can't do me like that." I said, "I'll tell you what. I'll put it up for a vote. I'll put it up to your buddies, see what they think." So I said, "How many of you guys think I should take a picture with him with this USC football shirt?" Everyone's saying "Noooo. Nooo. Boo."
"How many think I shouldn't?" And everyone raises their hands. He went and put on the green Notre Dame shirt. He said, "My wife is going to rag me for the rest of my life." It was one of the more humorous moments of the trip.
Other highlights of the trip included orchestrating an NFL-combine simulation on the deck of an aircraft carrier, where soldiers tried to impress with their 40-yard dash times and bench reps. Weis also coached a flag football game with the other coaches who went on the trip with him (Georgia's Mark Richt, Auburn's Tommy Tuberville, Yale's Jack Siedlecki and Miami's Randy Shannon); the five of them seemed to have a great time:
Every single person over here is fired up about what they’re doing and why they’re here. It’s a very encouraging experience [. . .] If I were single, I wish this thing went on for a month. I could do this [for longer] but I miss my family.
If trips to the Middle East are at all correlated with regular season success, the Fighting Irish should be in pretty good shape for the Fall of 2008. After traveling to Kuwait to coach troops in a basketball tournament ("Operation Hardwood") last year, Mike Brey’s team overachieved on the court, finishing 2nd in the Big East, notching their first tournament win in several years, and finishing the season ranked 19th nationally.