“A Season With Notre Dame Football”: The Best Terry Jillery Moments


The Showtime series A Season With Notre Dame Football has been must-see TV for Fighting Irish football fans this fall. The behind-the-scenes look at America’s most storied college football program has included everything, from heartbreak (injuries to Malik Zaire and various others, the Clemson game) to triumph (DeShone Kizer’s emergence, the USC game, etc.) to hilarity (Sheldon Day’s mom, football players in a haunted house, etc.).

However, one of the most engaging and charming story lines has certainly been the show’s focus on true freshman defensive tackle Jerry Tillery. Tillery, playfully referred to as “Terry Jillery” by various veteran players, stands tall (like, really tall) as the perfect example of why Notre Dame football players are great for this type of show. Intelligent, inquisitive, talented, and easygoing, the behemoth from Shreveport, Louisiana has been ratings dynamite for Showtime, spurring them to make sure they include him in some way in almost every episode.

This repeated exposure has revealed to Irish fans an immediate fan-favorite. I mean, how many other college football players have ever uttered the word “homodiatomic” on television? Terry Jillery has, because he’s a master chemist (i.e., he’s in the midst of the chemistry class that all prospective pre-med students take freshman year, and he discussed the term with a classmate while studying for the midterm).

Getting to know the different sides of Terry Jillery has been fantastic and wholly entertaining. Let’s revisit the best moments.

Sheldon Day giving Terry the nickname “Terry Jillery”

Ever since I was a very strange kid (always), I’ve enjoyed assigning different names to people and things. In 5th grade, a couple of my friends and I gave names to a variety of objects in our classroom, and spent our daily snack time telling each of them hello. Flipping names backwards has also been a past passion of mine, and in middle school I remember my friends calling me Tap Navillus while I flipped their first and last names backward as well. In high school I took great joy in calling my buddy named Alex Urbanski either “Alex Urban Ski” or “Ulex Arbanski.” Finally, during college, in a thinly veiled attempt to hide my Facebook from potential employers, I changed my Facebook name to “Satrick Pullivan.” Clearly, I enjoy a good mixing-up of a person’s name.

So, it makes sense that this is by far my favorite moment for Terry Jillery, because it has allowed me to call him Terry Jillery for the rest of his life. Senior captain Sheldon Day and the other veterans see a talented, mature freshman who is smart and promising, and decide to take him under their collective wing. Switching up his name is a stroke of genius for some lighthearted hazing, and Jillery’s reaction is absolutely perfect:

“I don’t really get it, it seems stupid.”

Terry Jillery is annoyed by it, which means the nickname will stick. Also, Terry Jillery does NOT think it’s funny. And that makes it even more hilarious.

Terry being told to keep his helmet on when he uses the porta-potty

Terry Jillery is at practice. Terry Jillery has had too much water to drink. Terry Jillery needs to use the porta-potty on the edge of the field.

Thus, Terry Jillery rushes off to use the facilities, taking his helmet off in the process. As he does so, Sheldon Day takes notice and comes a-callin’, ordering Terry to put his helmet on.

“To go to the bathroom?” Terry responds.

Day confirms, insisting Terry never takes his helmet off while at practice.

Terry, sheepish and confused and conflicted, begrudgingly slides his helmet back on, and then all 6 feet and 6 and 1/2 inches of him, made slightly taller due to the gold dome now adorning his massive frame, awkwardly ducks into the porta-potty to attempt to use the toilet with limited vision and space to operate.

Terry and Sheldon play putt-putt

Any time that two huge mammoths of men decide to play a game designed for children, it’s going to be great television. This doesn’t disappoint, as we see Terry defeat Sheldon (I think? It’s difficult to tell who really wins) in a game that features some quality mini-golf smack-talk as well as some sage advice from the senior. Day staring down Jillery while Jillery doesn’t even look up to acknowledge what just happened on the final hole (Jillery sinking his final putt) is the icing on the cake.

Terry in chemistry lab/Terry’s career goals

Terry Jillery does science. Photo Credit: Screenshot of Showtime’s “A Season With Notre Dame Football,” Episode 4.

This is prime freshman dweeb Terry Jillery. So much promise, so much hope, and so many dreams are just pouring out of him. We get to see him interact with his chem lab partner, describing the chemical reactions they’re working on and joking around as college students are prone to do, and then Terry has a vulnerable-yet-incredibly-strong moment in front of the camera as he explains his life goals.

Terry wants to play in the NFL. Terry wants to be a doctor. Terry wants to be President of the United States of America. He believes he can do all that, and asks why not? And honestly, at this point, is anyone going to doubt the young man? This kid has the confidence, intelligence, curiosity, and work ethic to accomplish whatever he sets out to accomplish, it would appear.

I personally cannot wait to see the campaign ads in 2048 for Terry Jillery, former NFL DT who once wore a football helmet into a porta-potty. He’s got my vote.

Jerry Tillery wearing nice shorts

There’s a scene in which the defense is watching film and then defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder takes them to a practice field to run through some things they had discussed. Terry Jillery is shown playing defensive line in this walk-through, and he is WEARING NICE SHORTS. Not gym shorts or sweatpants or anything remotely athletic.

Terry Jillery is wearing decent shorts you might wear to a barbecue or to an early-first-semester night at Feve, and is down in a four-point stance dressed to impress. He is the kid who wore jeans to basketball practice, all grown up and playing football for one of the finest programs in the country. This is perfect and Terry is perfect.

Teammates ribbing Terry about his female friend visiting

There are few things funnier than someone getting defensive and embarrassed about a girl they could possibly like, and so when Terry tells his teammates he has a female friend visiting for the next day’s game, their reaction of calling her his girlfriend and asking if he loves her is phenomenal. And his response to the love question is even better.

“What is wrong with you?!”

Terry + ladies + prying friends = absolute gold.

Terry’s birthday

I loved this part mainly because it again shows Terry’s teammates ripping on him, this time at a pizza party thrown in his honor. Terry’s lighthearted, take-it-all-in-stride response to all the flack they give him is honorable and displays his easygoing demeanor. Sheldon Day offers a Gatorade toast to Terry, and Terry at first prepares to talk some trash back to Sheldon, who subsequently tells him to shut up. Day then goes on to say that Terry could end up being one of the best to ever come through Notre Dame. This was touching and awesome and made me feel all mushy inside.

Bonus reason to love this part? This incredible exchange between defensive line coach Keith Gilmore and his players:

Gilmore: “Make sure y’all take all the pizza and clean these boxes up. I’ve got to go see my wiiiiiiiiiiiiiife!”

Unknown player off-screen: “IN THE HOT TUB!”

Gilmore: *grins ear-to-ear and shrugs a bunch*

Players: “Hot tub! Hot tub!”

~end scene~

Terry’s campfire behavior

Terry Jillery is attacked by a campfire. Photo Credit: Screenshot from Showtime’s “A Season With Notre Dame Football,” Episode 7.

On the Thursday night before the USC game, a few teammates and some friends are partaking in a campfire party of sorts, making s’mores and socializing around a fire pit.

Terry Jillery is in attendance and enjoying himself, until something from the fire (ash? a stray ember? the general heat emanating from it?) causes him to leave his seat, complaining, and move awkwardly away from the fire. His reaction is really funny, clearly genuine, and just makes us love Terry more due to his inability to handle sitting near a simple campfire.

Bonus quote from this scene:

Isaac Rochell: “Jerry, it’ll probably be the biggest game you’ve ever played in.”

Terry Jillery: “I want that…shillelagh.”

Terry gets his midterm grade

A couple things are in play here. First, we see that Terry Jillery legitimately takes real, college-level classes, studies for midterms, takes midterms, and goes to pick up his midterm grades just like any other student. I can vouch for that, as I was once a freshman with pre-med dreams who took that exact same chemistry class Terry is working through. It’s legitimately really cool to see a big-time player with a big-time future like Jillery working hard in school like any other student.

Secondly, Jillery’s reaction to receiving his grade is top-notch. He reviews his exam and the grade he received, and flips through the questions marked up by whatever TA graded the test. He then explains to the camera (that’s been awkwardly watching him find out his first midterm grade) that he did about average on the test, so it’s okay, but he can definitely work harder and do better.

As he leaves after finishing his speech to the camera, we hear him get audibly mad at himself over his test grade, which is hilarious, candid, and shows he actually gives a shit about his education:

“That sucks!”

Keep on keepin’ on, Terry. You’ll get there.

Sheldon Day and Terry Jillery – Pillow Talk

Terry Jillery discusses important issues with his mentor, Sheldon Day, before bed. Photo Credit: Screenshot from Showtime’s “A Season With Notre Dame Football,” Episode 7.

Day and Jillery are roommates for nights before games. The scenes showing Terry and Sheldon in their hotel room the evening before a game are always sensational, because Day is constantly giving Terry crap and Terry is constantly responding with classic one-liners. These pillow talk sessions have already given us Terry getting ribbed by his teammates about a girl, and now they’ve given us the below moment, as Terry and Sheldon lie in bed shirtless.

Terry Jillery: “Sheldon, why didn’t you come to the bonfire yesterday? That’s my question, why weren’t you at the bonfire?”

Sheldon Day: “So you know how we were supposed to get pedicures, right? And then you canceled that -”

Jillery: *tries to interject*

Day: “No, no, just lemme talk. You talked, lemme talk. You flaked on me for the pedicures. You flaked on your date. So, I decided to flake on you, Jerry. I mean…”

Jillery: “But do two wrongs make a right?”

Day: “Yes.”

Jillery: “Do two negatives make a po – wait…it actually does.”

~end scene~

Never change, Terry Jillery. Never change.

Terry’s Ireland Experience

This episode is great, because the first scene for Terry is him just sitting in his buddies’ dorm room, excitedly talking about their trip to Dublin over Fall Break, and one of them mentions how there are actually sheep herders in Ireland. Terry thinks that is pretty cool, and excitedly asks if he could ride a sheep. His friends laugh and explain to him that that wouldn’t be an option. Terry seems bemused but it doesn’t put a damper on his excitement.

The rest of this trip gives us plenty more great Terry moments. Whether it’s the cut of Terry discussing the waist size of his pants with his fellow students, Terry and his buddies Irish dancing with real Irish dancers, Terry meeting with a doctor one-on-one to discuss career aspirations, Terry being a huge defensive tackle attempting to play hurling (while wearing a button-down shirt), or Terry complaining about how literally all of his clothes he has at school were lost when his luggage didn’t make it back with him to the USA, this segment leaves us in the audience clamoring for more Jillery Abroad.

Terry always wears a Hillary Clinton shirt

Terry Jillery wears this shirt a lot. Photo Credit: Screenshot from Showtime’s “A Season With Notre Dame Football,” Episode 4.

Let me preface this by saying I absolutely abhor politics and politicians and can’t stand anything going on in that arena. I don’t support Hillary or Trump or really any of them and it’s safe to say I’m incredibly ignorant in ever discussing politics. I only enjoy the candidates’ antics and the funny Twitter jokes they enable.

That being said, Terry Jillery very frequently being shown wearing a Hillary Clinton campaign shirt is magnificent. Not only does it show he probably pays some attention to current events and likes to think of himself as an active supporter of a politician he believes in, but it also shows that he really doesn’t own that many shirts.

This perfectly lines up with his dismay at having his luggage lost by the airline on his way back from Ireland. He claims all of his clothes were in there, and considering he spent less than a week in Ireland, it’s safe to say Terry Jillery just doesn’t have that many items of clothing to his name. He clearly lives a simple life, never focused on material goods. Could this be why he wasn’t wearing athletic shorts at that one practice as well?

During college, I probably did laundry once every 3 or 4 weeks, so I honestly don’t understand how Terry is getting by on such a small supply of clothing. Is he not washing his clothes in between uses? Does he do laundry every night? Can someone please purchase Terry another shirt or two, and maybe pants that fit him as properly as the ones he’s seen discussing in Ireland?

No matter the reason or the solution, Terry Jillery’s lack of available clothing is a superb addition to the show and really help us grow even closer to him as a relatable character.

Whatever else is coming down the Terry Jillery pipeline

With at least four more episodes left in the series, Showtime will surely bring us more classic Terry Jillery moments. I certainly speak for everyone who has watched the show when I say that I am more than excited to see what else I can learn about Terry Jillery, and I can’t wait to see how his career plays out, both on and off the gridiron.

So here’s to Terry Jillery, the 305-pound future doctor and U.S. president who isn’t in love, doesn’t like pedicures, wants to ride a sheep, owns just a few shirts, and wears his football helmet while using a porta-potty. He is an American treasure, let alone a Notre Dame gem, and everyone needs to know about him and celebrate him and bask in his presence on campus for the next few years.