Jack Brehmer's voice slowed before it cracked a little.
He took a small breath.
“It just means everything to me,” he said as he wiped underneath his glasses before any tears could fall from his eye.
Brehmer is a Notre Dame fan who has been adopted by Irish Athletics. They took care of him when he broke his hip, and whenever he attends an athletic event, they help him get around.
On Saturday, Brehmer will be on Owen Field during the Notre Dame — Oklahoma game, where he will be honored during the first timeout of the second quarter as the oldest Notre Dame fan in attendance.
Brehmer's 91st birthday is Friday, or as he likes to put it, he's starting “the 92nd year” of his life.
For the last eight years, Brehmer has come to Oklahoma City to spend time living with his daughter and son-in-law, Marnie and Clayton Taylor, but his home is in South Bend, Ind. A few years ago, the Taylors received a Christmas card from Brehmer. It was him with the entire Notre Dame women's soccer team. The next year, it was with the cheerleading squad.
Brehmer grew up in South Bend at the intersection of Notre Dame Ave. and South Bend Ave. He remembers legendary Irish football coach Knute Rockne's funeral procession. He attended a couple of the Oklahoma games when the Sooners came to South Bend.
“Bud Wilkinson and that team were great,” he said. “I remember everyone who talked about them just said nice things about how wonderful of people they all were.”
He served in the Navy in World War II, and his favorite teacher was his high school English teacher, John Wooden. Yes, the famed UCLA basketball coach John Wooden. What really makes Brehmer smile is talking about Notre Dame athletics.
He loves players like Bishop McGuinness' Elyse Hight, a goalkeeper for the Irish, and the Connelly girls, who played tennis at Notre Dame.
“I got adopted by their parents,” he said. “Well, at least the wives.”
When he was healing from his broken hip, the Irish women's soccer team sent him edible bouquets of fruit, and cards that the whole team signed. They even stopped by to visit him.
After Notre Dame won the national championship in 2010, the Irish named Brehmer an honorary member of the team and gave him a framed jersey.
“I didn't get a diamond like them though,” Brehmer said with a laugh.
The 1943 Notre Dame graduate has been a season-ticket holder of 10 Irish sports teams, including football, basketball, soccer, ice hockey, lacrosse and more. He attends every Irish game that he can for any team, especially if he knows a kid from Oklahoma is going to be on the team. His smile glowed whenever Hight was mentioned.
“She's one great soccer player,” Brehmer said.
This weekend, he'll attend the Notre Dame pep rally and the Saturday afternoon tailgate before attending the game. He's a little worried about his Irish going up against Oklahoma.
“It's looking like they could get beat,” Brehmer said. “I'll tell you what though, if they do, they'll go down fighting.”