For the past couple of months we have been focusing on the future of Notre Dame football. Now it's time to reflect on the past and remember some of the Champions of days gone by.
The 1966 team are not only college football National Champions, but the men that I have met from that squad are also champions of life.
Under the leadership of Ara Parseghian, running a high powered offense and a 4-4 defense, The Irish finished with a 9-0-1 record and No. 1 in both the coaches and AP polls.
The tie, a 10-10 masterpiece versus Michigan State in East Lansing, is regarded as one of the greatest games of all time. The 45th anniversary of that game will be celebrated in South Bend the weekend of the MSU game this season.
Notre Dame entered the contest 8-0 and ranked first in both polls. The Irish had overtook Michigan State earlier in the season after a 32-0 win over the University of North Carolina coupled with an 11-8 Michigan State win over Ohio State.
The Irish defense had shut out five of its last six opponents coming into the game. Michigan State was riding a 19-game win streak and ranked No. 2 in both polls. Michigan State was defending National Champions.
The game played on November 19 was the 10th time in the history of the Associated Press polls that the No. 1 and No. 2 teams squared off since 1936.
The stadium in East Lansing was at 111 percent capacity, with 80,011 fans on hand to watch smash mouth football at it's finest. All-American running back Nick Eddy didn't play at all for the Irish after slipping on the ice at the East Lansing train station.
The Irish also lost quarterback Terry Hanratty to a separated shoulder, incurred by a monster hit by Bubba Smith. Notre Dame center George Geoddeke was lost as well due to a sprained ankle.
The game featured more than two dozen All -Americans and saw Michigan State jump out to a 10-0 lead. A lead that was cut to 10-7 at halftime. The Irish scored on the first play of the fourth quarter on a 28-yard Joe Azzaro field goal. The game ended in a 10-10 tie.
The following week Notre Dame blasted USC 51-0 to secure it's eighth National Championship.
Having had a chance to spend some time with Ron Jeziorski, Mike Burgener and many more of the men from the 1966 team, it's impossible to not walk away with a sense of unity. Forty five years after the "Game of the Century" these men still talk with pride about their time leaning under Ara Parseghian.
As important as it is for us to focus on the future, it is equally important for us to take the time to remember the men that paved the way. The 1966 team will live in the hearts of those who watched them as well as those who hear the tales of yesterday.