Notre Dame football inspires boy author
Ten-year-old Fighting Irish fan writes book for kids
Like a lot of 10-year-old boys, Jacob Keyes likes football – especially Notre Dame football. But unlike most fifth-graders, Jacob, of Spokane, has written a book about his favorite team.
“The Little Gipper’s Welcome to Notre Dame Football” is Jacob’s tribute to the school and the team he adores.
In 2010, he attended a summer skills camp at the university and was hooked – on the sport and the school. “The first place he ever set foot on a football field was Notre Dame,” said his father, Michael Keyes.
He enjoyed the football skills camp so much, he wanted to return the following summer. He earned tuition by doing extra chores.
The idea for the book came to him when he visited Hammes Bookstore at Notre Dame. “I couldn’t find any books about Notre Dame football for kids my age,” Jacob recalled. “I thought, ‘Why can’t I do that?’ ”
His mom, Theresa Keyes, accompanied him to that second camp. “We went to the Grotto every night and prayed,” he said. “And I wanted to show her the Hesburgh Library. It has a picture of Jesus on it with his hands up like he’s signaling a touchdown.”
Last fall they returned to Notre Dame, where Jacob celebrated his 10th birthday at the Notre Dame/University of Southern California game.
“I started writing the book after the USC game,” he said. “It took about a year to finish.”
It’s not that he likes writing so much, he said: “It’s that I love Notre Dame.”
His dad’s legal knowledge came in handy. Michael Keyes is trademark/copyright attorney who secured the “Little Gipper” trademark for his son.
As Jacob began writing the book he learned that the university has a policy requiring that permission must be obtained from everyone whose picture or illustration appears in print.
He embarked on an email/letter-writing campaign to secure those permissions. He anxiously awaited the replies. “Joe Montana was the last one. He was really hard to get in touch with – I was worried,” he said.
Montana happens to be his favorite Notre Dame player.
The book traces the history of the Fighting Irish, and each chapter features “Little Gipper Sideline Facts” and the “Little Gipper Wrap Up,” a series of trivia questions.
“My mom gave me the idea to use trivia at the end of each chapter,” Jacob said.
The book is filled with photographs and illustrations. Ellen Eide, a 2012 Notre Dame graduate, did the graphic design and layout.
The University of Notre Dame offered support and encouragement as Keyes penned the book, especially Hesburgh Library staffers. Former players proved gracious, as well. “Pat Terrell sent me an autographed picture of his game-saving 1988 play,” Keyes said.
On Nov. 3, Jacob will be signing copies of “The Little Gipper’s Welcome to Notre Dame Football,” at the Hammes Bookstore at Notre Dame.
Jacob plays quarterback for Cataldo Catholic School; he also plays piano and practices chess moves. Despite that busy schedule, he adds, “I’d be really happy if I could write another book.”