SOUTH BEND, Ind. – They visit him to celebrate. They visit him to remember. They visit him when they’re hopeful. They visit him when they’re searching for something. They visit him to have a drink. They visit him to smoke a cigar. They visit him in the spring and the winter. They’ve been visiting him for decades. And they’ll be visiting him for decades to come.
Knute Rockne’s grave is unassuming. Unless someone tells you where it is, you’d spend a whole day looking for it. There’s a memorial about 40 yards away that’s a bit more ornate, but the actual headstone in line with the rest of his family is simple. It reads: “Father Knute K. Rockne 1888 – 1931” with an illustration of a tilted cross. That’s it. But people seek it out. Every single day.
There are almost always fresh flowers to honor Rockne. Pennies – by tradition – are scattered over the stone. Sometimes folks will leave an unlit cigar. And there is almost always one or more shot glasses, empty or full, left to toast Notre Dame’s greatest coach.
Rockne had a reputation for innovation and for getting the best out of his players. There likely wouldn’t be the tradition of Notre Dame football that there is today without him. There also wouldn’t be the expectation of what Notre Dame football is supposed to be capable of.
On a Friday before an away game weekend, Rockne’s grave was silent.