“We had a team meeting at 7:30 before classes started — when I told them that Bobby Satterfield died last night. One player passed out, almost every player in that room shed real tears. You couldn’t tell if Bobby Satterfield was white or black, offense, defense, first-team, third-team, scholarship, walk-on, East Coast, West Coast. What you could tell — they lost a teammate!” -Coach Holtz
Bobby Satterfield epitomized the spirit of Notre Dame football throughout the Coach Lou Holtz era. He loved unconditionally, he was committed to excellence in all facets of his life, and he could be trusted. In short, he was an Irish football legend, not for his exploits on the football field, but more importantly for the lasting impact he had on his teammates. Bobby positively impacted his teammates through his example in the classroom, on the practice field, in the weight room, in the locker room, and on campus. It is for these reasons this Holtz’s Heroes Foundation, Inc. fund is most appropriately dedicated to his memory and named the “Bobby Satterfield Fund”.
Now you know the story, we want to help you better understand the person. Bobby Satterfield was a defensive back from California who played at Notre Dame from 1985 through 1988.
Bobby was at Notre Dame during some pivotal years in Notre Dame football history. He was there to experience the last year of the Coach Gerry Faust regime, a 5-6 season that ended in a 58-7 drubbing by Miami. Bobby didn’t see the playing field during that abysmal 1985 season, and it would have been easy for him to throw in the towel, but Bobby didn’t quit he persevered.
With the arrival of Coach Holtz the 1986 season presented new opportunities for Notre Dame football and Bobby. On paper the 1986 squad’s record resembled the 1985 team that struggled mightily to find success. The records were identical: 5-6 seasons. Yet, this was a different team, a team that played top-ranked Michigan, and eventual national champion Penn St. to the wire. A team that the Notre Dame faithful could be proud of once again. A team that demonstrated significant progress on the field. This was a team that woke up the echoes and began to re-establish the fighting spirit that has permeated Notre Dame throughout history. Bobby Satterfield was a part of this revival. Again, though Bobby didn’t see much playing time, he persisted, and continued to contribute to the team. Two straight losing seasons and limited playing time, yet Bobby didn’t quit.
In Bobby’s junior season, the Irish started out strong going 8-1, only to close-out the season with 3 straight losses to Penn St., Miami, and Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl. Although the season was a success relative to the prior two seasons, 8 wins and a Heisman trophy winner in Tim Brown, there remained disdain over how the season had ended. Again, Bobby didn’t see much action, but he continued to persist. Quitting was not in Bobby’s DNA.
Finally, in Bobby’s senior season in 1988, the fruits of his labor and the labor of his teammates were appropriately enjoyed. Over the course of that magical season the Irish went 12-0 including victories over Michigan, Miami (an epic battle that has been captured in a documentary), Penn State, and West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl. From the ashes in Miami in 1985 to 12-0! Notre Dame football and Bobby Satterfield were National Champions.
It was during Bobby Satterfield’s tenure at Notre Dame that the coaching staff coined the term “Pit Bulls” to describe the tenacity and perseverance of the walk-ons that served on the scout team, mimicking the upcoming opponents’ week in, week out; selflessly preparing the team to come out victorious on gameday. During the national championship campaign, Bobby was epitomizing the role of “Pit Bull” on the scout team week after week. One such week there was an intra-squad scrimmage on Cartier Field. Bobby was playing cornerback, when Tony Brooks (proto-typical big back with lightning speed) swept right with the ball. Bobby Satterfield came up from his corner position, shed his blocker, and stopped Brooks stone cold in his tracks. It was a hit that echoed across campus. To Bobby, it was about respect. It was about setting an example for his younger teammates. It was about representing the walk-ons he was so proud to lead. It was about not backing down from a challenge, what though the odds. That play embodied the type of effort that earned Bobby the respect of all of his teammates, and coaches. Preparing his teammates for games with effort like that is why Bobby was most appropriately a member of Notre Dame’s last National Championship team.
As recognition for a National Championship season Bobby was invited, along with his teammates to meet President Ronald Reagan at the White House in January of 1989, “The Gipper’s” last official week in office. It was no doubt, one of the proudest days of Bobby’s life. It was the culmination of a grueling climb up a proverbial mountain against the odds. After returning to South Bend a few hours later from the trip to Washington D.C., Bobby unexpectedly collapsed and died from natural causes.
Indeed, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Suddenly, what seemed so important (winning a National Championship) now seemed irrelevant. Notre Dame had lost a member of its family, his coaches had lost a son, and his teammates had lost a loyal brother. The campus was heartbroken.
The team and student body attended a service in a packed Sacred Heart Basilica, to honor their fallen teammate. After a beautiful service the team gathered outside the Basilica, under the shadow of Our Lady atop the Golden Dome and adjacent to the words “God, Country, Notre Dame” etched in stone over a doorway. They huddled together as as they had so many times over the last four years. The snow gently fell upon them. There were no more plays to call, but there was a need to remain united together and lean upon each other more than ever before. As they stood shoulder to shoulder finding comfort in the brotherhood forged in good times and bad they bowed their heads for a silent goodbye. A most significant goodbye to a brother who had left an indelible mark upon each of them. Not a word was uttered, but the moment spoke volumes. A Notre Dame moment if ever there was one.
Rest easy loyal son, gone but never forgotten. We love you and we miss you Bobby Satterfield.
When we provide financial assistance to those in need through the Bobby Satterfield Fund we are forever reminded of Bobby, his life, example and legacy. We know that he would be pleased that we are assisting those who are battling long odds because Bobby knew better than anyone “what though the odds be great or small old Notre Dame will win over all”.
To donate to the Bobby Satterfield Fund please click here.