Notre Dame loses another top assistant

Sep 4, 2016; Austin, TX, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish offensive lineman Sam Mustipher (53) and offensive lineman Quenton Nelson (56) and offensive lineman Mike McGlinchey (68) during the game against the Texas Longhorns at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports(Photo: Kevin Jairaj, Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)

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SOUTH BEND — Brian Kelly is losing another top assistant.

Offensive line coach Harry Hiestand is returning to the Chicago Bears under new head coach Matt Nagy. The news was first reported by the Chicago Tribune.

Hiestand, 59, was the Bears offensive line coach from 2005-09, which included a Super Bowl appearance. Since then, he’s coached offensive lines at Tennessee (2010-11) and Notre Dame (2012-17).

“Harry is an outstanding coach–one of the best offensive line coaches in football,” “He developed young men in the spirit of Notre Dame. I know this was a difficult decision for him based upon his feelings for this program, this University and his student-athletes.

“Notre Dame has always had a high standard of offensive line play and attracted the best offensive linemen in the nation. Harry was an excellent caretaker to that standard. While disappointed to see Harry go, I‘m not surprised by his decision. We knew six years ago when we hired him that his final step in coaching could be in the NFL.”

This season the Fighting Irish won the Joe Moore Award, honoring the top offensive line in college football. In Hiestand’s six seasons in South Bend, the program has had four linemen drafted in the top three rounds since in Zack Martin, Ronnie Stanley, Nick Martin and Chris Watt. This April, left guard Quenton Nelson and left tackle Mike McGlinchey are expected to be selected in the first round.

“I was fortunate to have the honor of coaching the offensive line at Notre Dame for the past six years,” Hiestand said in a statement. “Father Jenkins and Jack Swarbrick asked us to do more than simply coach football. They asked us to not only help our young men mature but also prepare them for the trials of life. I loved that challenge.

“I‘m thankful to Coach Kelly for letting me coach my way. I‘m also appreciative of the offensive linemen for being the best part of every day here and working extremely hard to be the best.”

Before the Citrus Bowl, 36-year-old offensive coordinator . The two men developed a strong relationship after Long was hired last January and went on daily walks around campus. Together they helped shape Notre Dame’s offensive culture to one that would be physical and run the ball to win. The offensive line was the foundation of that change.

“I sit in his meetings every day to learn,” Long said of Hiestand. “He’s one of the finest teachers and motivators I’ve ever been around. I’ve learned way more from him than he has from me, I’ll tell you that.”

Now Notre Dame must rebuild an offensive line while finding a replacement for one of the program’s most valuable coaches.

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