‘‘He was always the guy to ask the question to provoke himself to get to the next step, to keep going to not ever get stagnant,’’ Kearly said.
When Kelly got to Notre Dame, he thought he needed to focus more on the defensive side.
‘‘Having lived in that world of trying to outscore opponents, I felt that the best blueprint that we could put together for a national championship was through our defense,’’ he said.
The Irish are sixth in the nation in total defense, giving up 288 yards a game, and first in scoring defense at 10.09 as they seek to win their first national championship since 1988.
Kelly is confident the Irish are ready for prolonged excellence.
‘‘I think the one word I've used is consistency in approach,’’ he said. ‘‘If there’s a consistency every single day where you come and have the same expectations, then you can build it for a long period of time.’’