Log in
Idle American

A Texan’s View of Touchdown Jesus 


This is a backstory of “Touchdown Jesus” on the 50th anniversary of Notre Dame’s football faithful making the massive Hesburgh Library’s south wall mural better known than the building itself. Ever heard of the Hesburgh Library, or does “Touchdown Jesus” sound more familiar? I thought so.

The artist properly majored on the depiction of Jesus, His arms raised as if to commend the work of teachers, theologians, and doctors gathered around Him.

In1964 — one year later — Coach Ara Parseghian’s Fighting Irish rose to national prominence. With the famous mural looming at 134-feet tall behind the north end zone, fans saw it regularly, framed by goal posts, when touchdowns were scored. Almost immediately, the term “Touchdown Jesus” was born.

In the early 1990s, Notre Dame brain trusts opted to build the library and then expand the nearby stadium, creating “campus crossroads” and earmarking $400 million for the joint project.

Part of the “price of progress” was a shortened vertical view of the mural from the stadium. When 4,000 seats were installed above the top rim —increasing stadium seating to 62,000 — the horizontal view of Jesus was limited to His waist up.

My brother, Dr. Fred Newbury — the true academician in our family — visited the historic stadium a few years back, returning home with a classic line of his very own. (Okay, so I’m jealous! I, and many others, respect his many contributions to higher education. He has taught economics for more than 50 years at Dallas College and is still at it. Author of several textbooks, he’s been elected numerous times to lead Dallas College faculty associations and the Texas Community College Teachers Association.) I fear that he may overshadow my efforts in the “humor business.” But, I want to be charitable. His observation at a Notre Dame Stadium game deserves attention in this space in boldface type.

He appears to be highly academic — think hound’s tooth jacket, pipe in clenched teeth and shaggy hair. He often gazes toward the horizon, as if struggling to express thoughts that even I — and other subordinates — might understand.

Down deep, though, he’s as country as I am. However, he has traveled worldwide, including his stadium visit after renovation. When the Irish scored, all eyes turned toward “Touchdown Jesus.”

Digression aside and preamble explained, his comment upon seeing the mural showing Jesus from the “waist up” — His arms clearly raised — deserves to be archived in Notre Dame football lore. Here are his words: “After stadium renovation, Jesus’ touchdown signal remains intact, but His signal for pass incompletions can’t be seen.” Now I’ve shared his line, including words that can easily be pilfered. (I once attended a conference at Notre Dame and was awed by the mural which was funded to the tune of $200,000 for the work of art.)

Not so well known is another spiritual symbol in Brownwood, Texas.

Prominently stationed near the Best Western Plus Riata Hotel’s entrance is a five-foot-tall granite monument bearing important biblical instructions. Bigger than most tombstones, it weighs almost one ton.

Inscribed are words from the Holy Bible’s TEN COMMANDMENTS, from both Exodus 20:2-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-12.

Manager Patricia Henry making sure the granite remains spotless, says it draws praise from hundreds of guests monthly.

Criticism, however rare, usually comes from one or two guests monthly who also grump about the pillows, thermostats, or breakfast menu.

Manager there for four years, Henry has long dealt with the public. She feels that most people are friendly, honest and civil. She has operated a food truck, managed concession stands and served in numerous hotel roles before being named manager. Understandably, she’s mighty proud of the hotel’s 900-plus point rating for the past two years, since 1,000 is a perfect score. Perfection is rarely reached, of course, but like obeyance of the Ten Commandments, she’s coming close!

Dr. Newbury, longtime university president, writes weekly and speaks regularly. Now in its 23rd year, The Idle American is Texas’ longest-running syndicated column.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here