Michael Floyd and the 50 Greatest Notre Dame Fighting Irish of All Time

Thad Novak@@ThadNovakCorrespondent IApril 13, 2011

Michael Floyd and the 50 Greatest Notre Dame Fighting Irish of All Time

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    From George Gipp to Joe Montana, Notre Dame football boasts some of the most famous names in the history of the sport.

    With 11 national championships and a record seven Heisman Trophy winners, the program has produced more than its share of college football’s top performers.

    Read on for the 50 best of the best in the history of the Fighting Irish.

50. RB/CB Dick Lynch, 1955-57

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    Dick Lynch had a solid two-way career at Notre Dame, playing cornerback effectively and leading the team in receiving as a halfback in 1957. However, it’s one moment of his senior season that earns Lynch a place in history.

    Against Oklahoma in 1957, Lynch ran untouched around the right side for a three-yard TD that would prove to be the game’s only score. The Irish victory ended the Sooners’ record 47-game winning streak.

    Lynch led the NFL in interceptions twice during a nine-year career, mostly with the Giants.

49. S Dave Duerson, 1979-82

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    A rare four-year starter in South Bend, Dave Duerson was equally at home picking off a pass or flattening a running back. He earned All-America nods as both a junior and senior.

    Duerson served as Notre Dame’s captain in 1982, winning the team’s MVP honors for that season.

    Duerson’s fine NFL career was highlighted by his play for the legendary 1985 Bears’ defense.

48. WR Wayne Millner, 1933-35

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    Wayne Millner first made his name at Notre Dame on special teams, blocking a punt and recovering it for a TD to knock off unbeaten Army in 1933. He would become a standout WR, at least as much as one could be in those single-wing days.

    Millner’s crowning achievement came in Notre Dame’s 1935 meeting with Ohio State. With time running out and the Irish down a point, Millner caught a TD pass from the memorably-named Bill Shakespeare to give the Irish the win.

    Millner would become a Pro Football Hall of Famer with the Redskins, winning an NFL championship there in 1937.

47. LB Nick Buoniconti, 1959-61

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    At 5’11”, Nick Buoniconti was undersized for a middle linebacker even in the 1960s. His performance, though, stood much taller.

    In 1961, team captain Buoniconti was the leading tackler for the Irish. He’d finished second on the team in tackles (behind previous captain Myron Pottios the year before).

    Buoniconti would become a Hall-of-Fame linebacker as a pro, playing with the Patriots and Dolphins. He captained Miami’s undefeated 1972 squad.

46. TE John Carlson, 2004-07

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    At a school renowned for its great receiving TEs, John Carlson made sure he stood out in the record books.

    Carlson’s 47 catches in 2006 are second-most for a Notre Dame tight end, and his 100 career grabs rank third on the school’s TE list. He’s also on the short list of two-time Notre Dame captains, having filled that role in 2006 and 2007.

    Carlson will be entering his fourth year with the Seahawks next season.

45. DT Chris Zorich, 1987-90

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    Chris Zorich spent his freshman year at Notre Dame on the bench as he adjusted to the transition from high-school LB to college DT. As a sophomore, he showed that the time had been well spent, notching 10 tackles and 1.5 sacks in his first game with the Irish.

    Notre Dame’s third-leading tackler during their 1988 national championship season, Zorich would go on to win the Lombardi Trophy as the nation’s best DL/LB in 1990. He earned All-America honors as a junior and senior.

    Zorich played seven workmanlike seasons in the NFL, mostly with the Chicago Bears.

44. DE Walt Patulski, 1969-71

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    A high-school fullback, Walt Patulski made a seamless transition to defensive end at Notre Dame. Patulski started every game in his three seasons (freshmen weren’t eligible at that time), becoming one of the country’s premier defenders by his senior year.

    Patulski won the Lombardi Trophy as the nation’s top DL/LB in 1971, a year in which he also served as captain, was named Notre Dame’s defensive MVP and finished an impressive ninth in the Heisman voting.

    Patulski was drafted No. 1 overall by Buffalo and might have had a strong NFL career, but a 1976 knee injury forced him to retire.

43. DE Alan Page, 1964-66

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    LB Jim Lynch got most of the accolades, but Alan Page was just as vital a member of the defense that led Notre Dame to the 1966 national title.

    Page, a premier pass-rusher, earned All-America honors in 1966 as he anchored an Irish defense that posted six shutouts.

    Page later played his way into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of the legendary Purple People Eaters line that led the Vikings to four Super Bowls.

42. OT Aaron Taylor, 1990-93

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    Whatever the Irish offensive line needed from Aaron Taylor, it got. Taylor was an All-America guard as a junior, but Notre Dame was short on tackles, so Taylor moved outside for his senior year.

    As Notre Dame captain in 1993, Taylor won the Lombardi Trophy for outstanding lineman/linebacker and was a finalist for the Outland Trophy for best interior lineman.

    Taylor’s NFL career was hindered by recurring knee problems, but he did earn a Super Bowl ring with Green Bay in 1997.

41. TE/DE Jim Mutscheller, 1949-51

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    As a sophomore in 1949, Jim Mutscheller was a regular at defensive end for the national champion Irish. He would spend the rest of his college career making his name on offense.

    Mutscheller led Notre Dame in receiving in both 1950 and 1951, serving as team captain in the latter season.

    He went on to a fine NFL career, making one Pro Bowl and winning a pair of championships in eight seasons with the Baltimore Colts.

40. QB Ron Powlus, 1994-97

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    One of the most-hyped recruits in Notre Dame history, Ron Powlus could only have lived up to expectations by bringing another national title to South Bend. While he failed in that attempt, he did put up some of the best passing numbers in school history.

    Powlus graduated with 20 school records, including most attempts and completions in a season (as a senior he connected on 182 of 298 passes). His 7,602 career yards are still the second-most in Irish history.

    Despite his impressive numbers, Powlus went undrafted and never appeared in an NFL game.

39. QB Rick Mirer, 1989-92

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    Succeeding the fleet-footed Tony Rice as Irish QB, Rick Mirer gave Notre Dame a different kind of dual threat. A slower runner but stronger passer than Rice, Mirer would keep Notre Dame’s offense clicking throughout his three years as starter.

    Mirer’s 18 TDs in 1991 were a Notre Dame record at the time, as were his 41 career TD passes. His 350 career points (combining rushing and passing TDs) are second in Irish history.

    Drafted No. 2 overall by the Seahawks, Mirer was nothing short of disastrous in the pros. He threw more INTs than TDs in six of his eight NFL seasons.

38. RB Autry Denson, 1995-98

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    Autry Denson didn’t have the flash or the awards of some of Notre Dame’s star tailbacks, but he gave the Irish as reliable and productive a back as they’ve ever had.

    Denson holds Notre Dame’s career record for rushing yards at 4,318, and is second all-time with 43 rushing TDs.

    Denson played minimally over parts of four seasons in the NFL.

37. QB Joe Theismann 1968-79

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    Though Joe Theismann failed in his attempt to win a Heisman Trophy by changing the pronunciation of his name (it didn’t always rhyme with the award), he still left South Bend with plenty of accolades.

    Theisman set Notre Dame records as a senior by throwing for 2,429 yards and 16 TDs. His 526 yards in a single game, against arch-rival USC, still stands as the best mark in school history.

    Theismann’s standout NFL career was memorably ended by Lawrence Taylor, but not before he’d led the Redskins to back-to-back Super Bowl appearances.

36. WR Michael Floyd, 2008-Present

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    If Michael Floyd’s suspension (for a March 20 DUI arrest) doesn’t end his Notre Dame career, he’s a lock to become the leading receiver in Irish history next season.

    Floyd already has the Notre Dame record with 28 receiving TDs, and trails Jeff Samardzija by just eight catches and 54 yards for the career marks in those categories.

    Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has yet to set a date for when, if at all, Floyd will be allowed to return to the team.

35. CB Allen Rossum, 1994-97

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    Allen Rossum earned two All-America selections in track at Notre Dame, and put that speed to good use on the football field.

    Rossum holds Notre Dame’s career record with nine combined return TDs: three each on interceptions, punts and kickoffs. Captain of the 1997 squad, Rossum averaged a school-record 15.8 yards per punt return for his career.

    Rossum last played in the NFL in 2009; in his 12 seasons as a corner and return man (mostly with Atlanta), he made one Pro Bowl.

34. DT Bryant Young, 1990-93

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    One of the all-time great pass rushers from the defensive tackle position, Bryant Young was a starter for three of his four seasons with the Irish. He earned All-America honors as a senior, finishing with 6.5 sacks and 67 tackles that year.

    Young went on to a terrific NFL career, playing 14 strong years and winning a Super Bowl with the 49ers.

33. LB Bob Golic, 1975-78

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    A two-sport All-American in football and wrestling, Bob Golic was the heart of Notre Dame’s defense during their 1977 national title run. His 479 career tackles are second-most in school history.

    Golic also recorded one of the most remarkable individual games for a Notre Dame defender, making a record-tying 26 tackles against Michigan in 1978.

    Golic reversed the transition made by many college defenders, as he went from linebacker to lineman at the NFL level. Most of his illustrious 14-year career was spent at defensive tackle for the Browns and Raiders.

32. LB Jerry Groom, 1948-50

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    Although Jerry Groom earned All-America honors as Notre Dame’s captain in 1950, that season paled in comparison to what he’d accomplished the year before.

    Groom’s end-zone interception sealed a 27-20 win at SMU to complete Notre Dame’s undefeated season and give the Irish the 1949 national championship.

    Groom would play five strong seasons with the NFL’s Cardinals, earning one Pro Bowl selection.

31. DE Bob Dove, 1939-42

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    Though Bob Dove started his career as a tight end, catching 15 passes as a freshman, it was his prowess as a defensive end that earned him national recognition.

    Dove earned All-America honors in his final two seasons. As a senior in 1942, he won the Knute Rockne trophy, a forerunner to the Outland Trophy for the nation’s top lineman.

    Dove played seven seasons in the NFL, capped by a pair of championships with the Lions in 1953-54.

30. CB Todd Lyght, 1987-90

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    One of the best shutdown corners in Notre Dame history, Todd Lyght was a two-time All-American in 1989 and 1990. He led the team with eight picks in 1989, finishing as a finalist for the Thorpe Award.

    Lyght was a starter on Notre Dame’s 1988 national champions, and served as captain during his All-America senior year.

    He made one Pro Bowl appearance in a productive 12-year NFL career, mostly with the Rams.

29. RB Vagas Ferguson, 1976-79

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    Though he never finished higher than fifth in the Heisman voting, Vagas Ferguson made his mark as one of the top running backs ever to play for Notre Dame. Much of his legacy rests on a brilliant senior season.

    Ferguson was an All-American in 1979 after running for Notre-Dame-record totals of 1,437 yards and 17 TDs. His 3,472 career yards are third on the school’s all-time list.

    Ferguson was a first-round pick of the Patriots—he led the team in rushing as a rookie—but fizzled quickly and was out of football by 1985.

28. FS Mike Townsend, 1971-73

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    Mike Townsend set Notre Dame’s single-season record with 10 interceptions as a junior. It’s his performance the next season, though, that cements his place on this list.

    Townsend won All-America honors as a senior, captaining Notre Dame to the 1973 national title.

    Though Townsend was chosen in the 4th round of the NFL draft, he opted to play for the upstart World Football League with the Florida Sharks. When the WFL folded, Townsend’s professional career ended.

27. WR Raghib Ismail, 1988-90

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    Raghib Ismail, more often called Rocket, was both a dangerous wide receiver and a game-breaking return threat. His six career TDs on kick and punt returns are tied for the Notre Dame record.

    Ismail won one national title (in 1988) and came agonizingly close to a second in 1990. A clipping penalty erased his 91-yard punt return TD in a 10-9 Orange Bowl loss to Colorado.

    He finished second to Ty Detmer in the 1990 Heisman voting, but did win that year’s Walter Camp award.

    Ismail signed with the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts for the richest contract in CFL or NFL history to that time, and was MVP of the 1991 Grey Cup. He later joined the NFL, breaking 1,000 receiving yards twice in a nine-year career with three teams.

26. QB Tony Rice, 1987-89

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    After losing his freshman season to academic troubles, Tony Rice became Notre Dame’s starting QB for most of the next three years. In 1987 his passing helped Tim Brown win the Heisman Trophy, but it’s his running that made him a college superstar.

    With Rice orchestrating Lou Holtz’s option offense, Notre Dame steamrolled its way to the 1988 national title. Rice would win the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award the next year, but the Irish fell just short of repeating as champions, ranking No. 2 in the AP poll.

    Rice flopped dismally as a pro, going undrafted by the NFL and playing an unsuccessful season in both the CFL and the World League of American Football.

25. DE Justin Tuck, 2002-04

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    When the Giants drafted Justin Tuck to add another pass rusher to their Michael Strahan-led line, Notre Dame fans were already well aware of Tuck’s talent for harassing opposing QBs.

    Tuck holds the Notre Dame career record with 24.5 sacks, and his 13.5-sack junior year is the school record for a single season. He’s second only to Ross Browner with 43 career tackles for loss.

24. QB Brady Quinn, 2003-06

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    Brady Quinn’s Notre Dame career will inevitably be judged by the relative lack of team success, as his teams never finished ranked higher than No. 9 nationally. Individually, though, he rewrote the Notre Dame record books as a passer.

    His 11,762 career passing yards shattered Ron Powlus’ record by more than 4,000, and his 95 passing TDs nearly doubled the old mark (also set by Powlus). He won the Maxwell player-of-the year award and the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award in 2006.

    Quinn, acquired by the Broncos in the Peyton Hillis trade, has yet to appear in a game in a Denver uniform.

23. OG Bill Fischer, 1946-48

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    In Bill Fischer’s three seasons in South Bend, he helped give the Irish one of the best offensive lines college football has ever seen.

    Fischer won national championships as a sophomore and junior before taking over the captaincy as a senior. He won the 1948 Outland Trophy for the nation’s best interior lineman.

    Fischer would go on to a brief but impressive NFL career with the Cardinals, making three Pro Bowls in five seasons.

22. FB Nick Pietrosante, 1956-58

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    A rare fullback who excelled at carrying the ball, Nick Pietrosante took over the Notre Dame spotlight following the graduation of Heisman winner Paul Hornung.

    Pietrosante led Notre Dame in rushing in both 1957 and 1958, earning All-America recognition as a senior.

    Pietrosante had an outstanding pro career, mostly with the Lions, that included winning the Rookie of the Year award in 1959.

    After his death from cancer at age 50, Notre Dame established the Nick Pietrosante Award for the player who best exemplifies Pietrosante's "courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and pride."

21. LB Bob Crable, 1978-81

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    Bob Crable is one of the few players ever to serve as Notre Dame captain for two seasons, 1980 and 1981. His early recognition probably had something to do with his record-setting performance as a sophomore.

    Crable set an Irish record with 187 tackles in 1979, then followed that up with 167 (still second all-time) in 1981. Unsurprisingly, he’s the school’s career leader with 521 tackles.

    Crable would go on to a solid six-year NFL career with the Jets.

20. WR Jack Snow, 1962-64

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    When coach Ara Parseghian arrived at Notre Dame, he opened up the passing offense. One of the top weapons in that offense would be senior WR Jack Snow.

    Snow set school records for catches (60), yards (1,114) and TDs (nine) in a season in 1964, and his career total of 1,242 receiving yards was also an Irish record when he graduated.

    Snow went on to a stellar NFL career with the Rams. He’s also the father of former MLB first baseman J.T. Snow.

19. QB Terry Hanratty, 1966-68

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    Though Terry Hanratty earned All-America honors as both a junior and senior, it’s his sophomore season that merits a place on this list. Earning the nickname Mr. Fling (to wideout Jim Seymour’s Mr. Cling), Hanratty led the Irish to the 1966 national title.

    Though his individual totals have been surpassed by later QBs, Hanratty still ranks in the top four in Notre Dame history in both completions and yards per game.

    Hanratty played seven years in the NFL, mostly as Terry Bradshaw’s backup with the Steelers.

18. WR Jeff Samardzija, 2003-06

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    Tyrone Willingham’s biggest recruiting coups didn’t come to fruition until Willingham himself had left Notre Dame. He brought in QB Brady Quinn, and in the same class, landed Jeff Samardzija, the most productive receiver in Irish history.

    Samardzija holds Notre Dame’s career records for catches (179) and yards (2,593), and is second all-time with 27 receiving TDs. As a senior, he was a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award for the nation’s top WR.

    Samardzija might well have had a successful NFL career had he not decided to focus on baseball, where he’s now a setup reliever with the Chicago Cubs.

17. TE Dave Casper, 1971-73

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    Though he began his Irish career as an offensive tackle, Dave Casper’s talents as a pass-catcher would ultimately be his greatest asset. Moved to TE as senior, Casper vaulted to national stardom.

    Casper was named offensive MVP of Notre Dame’s 1973 national champions, earning All-America recognition that year.

    Casper would go on to a Hall-of-Fame NFL career, mostly with the Raiders, with whom he won a pair of Super Bowls.

16. RB Allen Pinkett, 1982-85

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    Allen Pinkett may hold the Notre Dame record for setting Notre Dame records as a runner. He was the first Irish running back to record three different seasons of 1,000 yards rushing, and he tied Vagas Ferguson’s single-season mark with 17 TDs in 1985.

    Pinkett’s 53 career TDs (49 of them rushing) are still the most ever at Notre Dame, and he’s second all-time with 4,131 rushing yards (which were a record when he graduated).

    Pinkett had a somewhat disappointing NFL career, never rushing for more than 720 yards in six seasons as a Houston Oiler.

15. TE Ken MacAfee, 1974-77

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    Two-time All-American Ken MacAfee holds the Notre Dame record for receptions by a tight end with 128. He saved his best performance for his senior year, in which he set the school’s single-season TE record with 54 catches.

    As Joe Montana’s top target with the 1977 national champs, MacAfee also finished third in the Heisman voting, won the Walter Camp player of the year award and earned both regular and Academic All-America recognition.

    MacAfee played two seasons with the 49ers before retiring when the team asked him to move to guard.

14. WR Jim Seymour, 1966-68

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    Few players in college football history have had debuts to match Jim Seymour’s. In his first game with Notre Dame, he caught 13 passes for 276 yards and three TDs.

    Seymour was just getting started. His 48 catches for 862 yards and 8 TDs were the heart of the Irish offense in their 1966 national championship season.

    Seymour graduated as Notre Dame’s career leader in catches and yards receiving, and still holds the school record with 5.3 receptions per game in his career.

    Seymour played three years with the Chicago Bears, but caught just 21 passes in his NFL career.

13. OT George Connor, 1945-47

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    The Notre Dame championship teams of the 1940s were built on dominating line play, and no lineman made his presence felt more than George Connor. Sixty years later, Connor still stands as arguably the best O-linemen ever to wear an Irish uniform.

    Connor won the inaugural Outland Trophy for outstanding interior lineman while anchoring the 1946 national champions. He would serve as captain for the 1947 season, claiming a second national title in the process.

    Connor would go on to a Hall-of-Fame NFL career, mostly with the Chicago Bears.

12. FB Elmer Layden, 1922-24

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    Elmer Layden was the fastest member, and best defensive player, of the legendary Four Horsemen backfield.

    Though none of the quartet (which also featured QB Harry Stuhldreher and HBs Jim Crowley and Don Miller) put up stats to compete with modern players, their 28-2 record as a group helped solidify Notre Dame’s position as a national power.

    Layden’s three TDs (two on interception returns) in the 1925 Rose Bowl keyed an Irish victory that gave Notre Dame its first consensus national Championship.

    Layden appeared in only two games in the nascent NFL (then known as the AFLG, the American Football League, where the G denoted superstar Red Grange). He later won 47 games as head coach at Notre Dame.

11. LB Jim Lynch 1964-66

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    One of the most decorated defenders in Notre Dame history, Jim Lynch captained the Irish to the 1966 national title.

    1966 was also Lynch’s second straight season leading the Irish in tackles, and the year in which he became one of the few defenders to win the Maxwell award as player of the year.

    Lynch was solid if unspectacular as a pro, playing 11 years and making two Super Bowls with Kansas City.

10. RB Johnny Lattner, 1951-53

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    Johnny Lattner once spent a week carrying a football with a handle attached around the Notre Dame campus. Coach Frank Leahy thought it was fitting punishment after his star halfback had fumbled five times in a loss to Purdue.

    Lattner recovered well enough to win the Maxwell Award as national player of the year that same season, 1952.

    Lattner’s 1953 Heisman Trophy win was the second-closest in the award’s history. He’s still the only two-time winner of the Maxwell.

    Lattner played just one season in the NFL before joining the Air Force, where he suffered a career-ending knee injury during a football game.

9. QB John Huarte, 1962-64

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    As a two-year backup at Notre Dame, John Huarte had attempted just 50 passes entering his senior season. Behind new coach Ara Parseghian and a more passing-friendly offense, Huarte would turn around a Notre Dame squad that had finished 2-7 and lead them to a 9-1 record in 1964.

    Huarte won the 1964 Heisman Trophy by averaging more than 10 yards per pass attempt, piling up 2,062 yards on just 205 throws.

    Huarte played eight years in the AFL and NFL, primarily as a backup. As a rookie, he was beaten out for the Jets’ starting job by fellow rookie Joe Namath.

8. WR Tim Brown, 1984-87

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    Tim Brown got off to a fast start at Notre Dame, setting a freshman record with 28 catches. By his senior year, it wouldn’t be just Notre Dame fans who knew his name.

    Brown became the first full-time WR ever to win the Heisman Trophy, claiming both that and the Walter Camp Player of the Year award in 1987. A top-flight return man, he has Notre Dame’s top two single seasons for all-purpose yardage (1,937 and 1,847 yards).

    Brown was a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010, his first year of eligibility after the end of his brilliant Raiders career.

7. DE Ross Browner, 1973, 1975-77

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    Ross Browner was so dominant as a senior that he won not only the Lombardi Trophy as the top DL/LB but also the Maxwell Award as national player of the year. As a defensive end, he finished fifth in the Heisman voting.

    A four-year starter, Browner won national titles in 1973 and 1977, as well as the Outland Trophy for best interior lineman in 1976. His 77 tackles for loss and 340 total tackles* are Notre Dame records.

    Browner would become a star lineman for the Cincinnati Bengals, helping take them to the Super Bowl after the 1981 season.

    *This record applies only to tackles by a lineman.

6. QB Joe Montana, 1975-78

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    At the start of the 1977 season, Joe Montana was Notre Dame’s third-string QB. By the end, he would lead the Irish to a 38-10 Cotton Bowl rout of Texas and a national championship.

    Much of his legend, though, derives from the following year’s Cotton Bowl, played the day after Dallas’ worst ice storm in 30 years.

    Montana, battling the flu, used halftime doses of IV fluids and chicken soup to fight his way back onto the field, leading the Irish to the game-winning TD with just four seconds to play.

    Given Montana’s astonishing success in the NFL, it’s easy to forget that he was only a third-round draft choice, mostly due to questions about his arm strength.

5. QB Paul Hornung, 1954-56

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    Paul Hornung, who led Notre Dame in rushing and passing in back-to-back seasons, was one of the great all-around stars in school history. Unfortunately, he also holds a regrettable record on the national stage.

    Hornung’s 1956 Heisman Trophy represents the only time the award has ever gone to a player from a losing team, as the Irish finished a dismal 2-8 despite his individual brilliance.

    Hornung would enjoy slightly more success in the NFL, winning four league championships and running Vince Lombardi’s Packer power sweep all the way to the Hall of Fame.

4. QB Angelo Bertelli, 1941-43

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    After leading the nation in completion percentage as a single-wing tailback in 1941, Angelo Bertelli had to learn an entirely new offense when head coach Frank Leahy switched to the T formation.

    It didn’t go too badly for Bertelli, who posted 1,039 passing yards and 10 TDs as a junior in the new offense. As a senior, he won the 1943 Heisman Trophy despite playing just six games before being called up to active duty with the Marines.

    Notre Dame, which had scored 43.5 points per game with Bertelli at QB, managed to hang on in his absence to win the 1943 national title.

    Bertelli couldn’t replicate his college success as a pro, starting just five games in three NFL seasons.

3. TE/DE Leon Hart, 1946-49

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    Thanks to his status as one of the last two-way players at Notre Dame, Leon Hart is one of just two linemen ever to win the Heisman Trophy, in 1949. He also won the Maxwell player-of-the-year award in the same season.

    Hart won a total of three national titles in South Bend, tying the NCAA record for a player. He’s the only player to win the Heisman, win a national title and be selected No. 1 in the ensuing NFL Draft.

    Hart wouldn’t disappoint as a No. 1 pick, winning three NFL championships in a Hall-of-Fame career with the Lions.

2. RB George Gipp, 1918-20

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    George Gipp is best remembered today for a game that took place nine years after his death.

    With Notre Dame facing heavily favored and unbeaten Army in 1929, coach Knute Rockne fired up his players with his now-famous speech about Gipp—on his deathbed with a throat infection just weeks after his senior season ended—telling Rockne to ask his team to “win one for the Gipper.”

    Made-for-Hollywood moments notwithstanding, Gipp deserves to be recognized for his own on-field achievements in South Bend.

    Gipp led the Irish in rushing and passing for three straight seasons from 1918-20. The Heisman trophy wouldn’t exist for more than a decade, but Gipp was named college football’s outstanding player (and Notre Dame’s first All-American) by Walter Camp in 1920.

    Gipp’s career rushing record of 2,341 yards stood until 1978.

1. QB/CB Johnny Lujack, 1943, 1946-47

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    Johnny Lujack won the Heisman Trophy en route to the 1947 national title, posting then-impressive totals of 777 yards and nine TDs passing. Still, he may have contributed even more to Notre Dame’s national championship the previous year.

    Against fellow unbeaten Army, Lujack made a TD-saving tackle on Doc Blanchard to preserve a 0-0 tie and keep Notre Dame’s title hopes alive.

    Lujack would play four years in the NFL, making two Pro Bowls. He’s still considered one of the best QBs in the checkered history of the Chicago Bears.