The way Rob Delaney tells it, he’s landed his dream job. In February, he was hired as an assistant offensive line coach at the University of Notre Dame. It’s a long way from his days in prep football, with the Palatine Panthers, and Loyola Academy where he reached the state championship, but the journey has been a thrill.
“I grew up watching Notre Dame football on NBC and listening to games on the radio on Westwood One,” Delaney says, “and I fell in love with the program.”
Delaney was hired by Harry Hiestand, the veteran offensive line coach, whose stops have included Illinois, Tennessee, the Bears and Notre Dame, among others during his 40-year career. However, shortly after Delaney came on board, Hiestand announced his retirement.
“Working for Harry Hiestand was one of the best things to happen to me in my career so far,” Delaney says. “He built a culture of toughness, brotherhood, straining and fundamental emphasis that I will forever try to instill into the players I get to coach.”
Delaney now works for new Offensive Line Coach Joe Rudolph, who has a similar approach to Hiestand, but with some new technique.
“Being in the position that I am, I have had the unique opportunity to learn philosophy from several great coaches,” Delaney adds.
His journey to Notre Dame started with his father, Joe, who coached him with the Palatine Panthers. Next, was John Holecek, who retired in December after leading the Loyola Ramblers to the Class 8 state championship, and seven state finals, including in 2011, with Delaney as the starting center.
Delaney played college ball at the University of Dayton, where he also began his coaching career, as a student assistant coach in the fall of 2016. Subsequent stops would include Ohio Wesleyan, the University of Illinois, Florida International University and most recently as assistant offensive line coach with the Akron Zips.
“Each place was special in its own right, but Notre Dame is definitely different,” Delaney says. “The expectation for our staff is for us to win a national championship. The expectation for our players is to work every day to ensure they have the best opportunity to compete for that — and to work for academic success at one of the most prestigious institutions in the country.”
Delaney is in the midst of spring practice with Rudolph — and Head Coach Marcus Freeman — and the team. They are working toward the traditional inter-squad scrimmage in Notre Dame Stadium, set for April 22. The Blue-Gold game allows fans to see new and veteran players compete for starting spots, as well as the impact of some of its new coaching staff.
In terms of the offensive line, Delaney sums it up this way: “Notre Dame offensive line play will stand on the base of hard work, brotherhood, toughness and outworking every opponent.”