When I first set foot on campus as a freshman, 49 years ago, I had already seen the beauty of the place, from my high school visit, but I was now learning about the great people I would be meeting.
The first fellow students to make an impression on me were my football-playing classmates. Because we lived in the Freshman Quad back then, we got to know our classmates quite well, seeing them in our frosh dorms (Stanford, Keenan, Farley, Breen Phillips, and Cavanaugh) and in our dining hall (North Dining Hall).
Six of my classmates made the biggest impression. Nick Eddy and Arunas Vasys were both track-team sprinters and 200 pound halfbacks. Bill Wolski was another halfback with muscles on top of muscles. Lou Gehrig-like Pete Duranko was a fullback built like the defensive lineman that Ara converted him to. Watching The Diesel walk across the quad on his hands was quite a sight. Mike Wadsworth was a big, handsome guy, with a marvelous voice. He looked the part of an Ambassador that he would become. But………the guy who made the biggest impression lived a couple floors above me in B-P……Mike “The Bear” Webster. He was scary looking. He didn’t talk much. I don’t recall him smiling a lot. He looked like a lumberjack. He was from Vancouver, British Columbia. I think he was listed at 6’3, 275, at a time when 220 was big enough to be a good tackle.
Bear might qualify as one of the few players that Ara did not develop well. He went on to have a great career in the Canadian Football League, forsaking a promising lumberjack future, no doubt. After that, Bear turned to pro wrestling, where he achieved champion status.
But it is in his third career that Bear became a real champion. He is a renowned police psychologist (talk about a reversal of stereotypes!). When I first learned about Bear’s new career from my own work in law enforcement, I mentioned it to Dan McGinn, Mike’s former teammate and friend. Dan said, “You mean Bear is the guy who talks a criminal into coming out of a building? Back when we hung out together, he would have kicked in the door and pulled the guy out by his throat!”
A year ago, Mike faced a serious challenge. He was called as an expert witness in a notorious use of force case. He testified against the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the agency which was his largest client. His testimony cost the RCMP the case and cost Mike a significant part of his income. I dropped him a line after that, commending him for his integrity. He replied that he has often remembered a line from Fr. Hesburgh…….”It is a lot harder to live your values than to talk them”. I was pleased that I could relay this story and Mike’s comments to Fr. Ted.
In my next book (on prominent Notre Dame Men), I will include three famous pro wrestlers who played football at Notre Dame (Jumpin’ Joe Savoldi, Angelo Mosca, and Mike Webster). Attached is a photo of “The Bear”, from when he was “Iron Mike”. Be afraid…….be very afraid!