SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The 88 year-old Notre Dame Stadium is home to nine national championship football teams and seven Heisman trophy winners. But it had never hosted a concert – until now.
"Entertainment Tonight's" Nancy O'Dell and her team were backstage with Garth Brooks, who used a football analogy to talk about preparation for his performance. "If you can just get that first play under your belt. Get hit, get up and get going," Brooks said.
The country singer said he was "flattered" when he found out his would be the first concert at the stadium. The concert took place in October and will be broadcast as a CBS primetime special Sunday, Dec. 2 at 8/7c.
"Happy for country music, because country music's going to be the first audience in here for a concert," Brooks said.
Fans of the Fighting Irish are among the most fervent in the nation, something Brooks was counting on.
"If you study Notre Dame's history and all the iconic stuff, you know, from the Golden Dome to the Word of Life, which the students have renamed 'Touchdown Jesus,' they talk about there's a feeling here. And you think, 'Ah, that's just for people that went there, right?'" Brooks said. "You walk out there, you can feel it. It's underneath your feet. It's in your heart. The second I walked out, I went, 'Holy cow.'"
That school spirit is a theme in films such as "Knute Rockne, All American" starring Ronald Reagan. Then there was the triumphant "Rudy" released 25 years ago.
"Man, I'll tell you. I just think music is the voice of hope, if that makes any sense, because you know better than anybody, being in the business you're in, this country's just so divided right now," Brooks said. "We wake up angry, and we stay angry all day long. But there's something about music that lets all that stuff go."
Brooks, a college athlete himself who attended Oklahoma State on a javelin scholarship, said he won't adopt a Fighting Irish tradition before taking the field.
"You know, the players, they touch the sign that says, 'Play like a champion today' before they—" O'Dell said.
"Amen," Brooks said.
"Are you gonna touch it?"
"No way," Brooks said. "The same way you don't hoist the cup. That's only for players. They've earned that right. I play, but I haven't earned that right."
"Do you feel better about being the first person to play the stadium, knowing that you got Jesus out there?" O'Dell asked.
"Well, thank God, Jesus has always watched out for me. But I think what I really want is these guys to be happy about," Brooks said.