By Michael Bielecki
VERO BEACH — St. Edward’s football coach Bill Motta has one goal outside of leading his team to victory – watch his son do the same at Notre Dame.
His son, Zeke, was a standout safety at Vero Beach High School who accepted Notre Dame’s offer to play football for them while continuing his education.
And Motta’s plans were to be there for his son, at every game, every step of the way. Bill would not only fly to South Bend to see Zeke’s home games – he’d travel to support him during away games as well. But just as his plans were in motion, Motta realized how much he’d miss coaching — after leaving Vero Beach High School in 2008 — and being around high school football.
St. Edward’s was coming off a losing year where they finished strong, and in Motta they found a man that could help the program immensely. Coach Brad Fojtik welcomed him as the new defensive coordinator.
“Coach Fojtik was really supportive of me needing to have Saturdays to see Zeke play,” said Motta. “This would be impossible without the support of my family and coaching staff. Things have worked themselves out, and I don’t believe the program suffers when I travel. It’s definitely not without its challenges, but it’s very rewarding.”
So the coach has developed a system for traveling to Zeke’s games. It flawlessly takes him from the football field on Friday night, to the Notre Dame game on Saturday, and back to Vero Beach in less than 48 hours.
“As soon as the (St. Edward’s) game is finished, I copy the game film here and drive to a hotel in Orlando,” said Motta. “I get to the hotel, and get four hours of sleep to wake up at 4:45 so I can catch my 6 a.m. flight.”
And thus, the journey begins for Bill Motta. He flies to Atlanta, has an hour layover, and then continues on to South Bend. In between, he goes over film with St. Ed’s coaching staff in preparation for Saturday practice.
By 12:15 p.m. on Saturday, Motta is in the parking lot at Notre Dame.
Motta uses the next hour to get situated and visit with some of his new best friends – the other parents of the Fighting Irish players.
At 1:30 p.m. the football team exits from a pre-game Mass in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, then walks across campus to the stadium. The Irish faithful line the sidewalks to cheer on their players, and Motta is right there with them.
“He sees me there and there’s a real comfort level there in his eyes,” said Motta. “I’m usually in the stadium at 2 p.m. for warm-ups, and that’s something I enjoy watching before watching the whole team come out onto the field.”
“I’m able to get by the rail when he comes out of the locker room, where he gives me a high five and I tell him to have a good game,” said Motta. “The smile on his face is indescribable. It lets me know how much he appreciates me being there.”
“I was just in shock from seeing a huge crowd in the stadium,” said Zeke. “At first I was nervous, but now I’ve adjusted to the whole game experience. Seeing Dad before and after the game makes me feel very grateful, and happy he’s made the trip.”
Win or lose, Bill takes his parent pass and joins the rest of the parents next to the gate nearest the locker room. “They do their press conference, and come out to meet all the parents,” said Motta. “I get to talk to Zeke and all the other players for a little bit, and then I walk him over to the locker room so he can shower up. After sending the players off, a lot of the parents stay to tailgate.”
The post game process is similar for road games, albeit more abbreviated.
Motta then retreats to his hotel, where he watches more film – of his daughter’s soccer games. “My girlfriend records the game and sends it to me so I can watch it on my computer Saturday night,” Motta said.
On weekends of home games, father and son grab breakfast before parting ways for the week. “He says he appreciates the effort, but its effort that is effortless for me,” said Motta. “As long as God is willing to provide ways for me to get up there, I’ll do it.”This article first published in sister publication Vero Beach 32963.