As Brian Kelly guides Notre Dame back to college football’s elite, a selection of the top 25 players in Notre Dame history is in order. With all of the outstanding players who have represented Notre Dame, any list is debatable by default. Even so, those selected here all exemplify the spirit of the Irish. The players are listed in alphabetical order. They are chosen for their determination or for their statistical contribution to the success of Notre Dame football.
1. Mark Bavaro, TE, (1981-1984). Plowed through linebackers and dragged defensive backs. Chosen first team All-American in 1984. Became an NFL star for The New York Giants
2. Angelo Bertelli, QB (1941-1943 ). Heisman Trophy winner in 1943. Coach Frank Leahy called him, “the man who we built our hopes and dreams on when we shifted to the T formation.”
3.Jerome Bettis, RB (1990-1992). Made opponents step aside and get out of his way. Remember his Sugar Bowl performance Florida fans?
4. Rocky Bleir, RB, (1965-1967). Inspirational runner helped the Irish achieve their 1966 championship under Ara Parseghian. Take that Michigan State!
5. Ross Browner, DL, (1973-1977). Compiled 97 tackles in 1976, including a school record 28 for loss.
6.Tim Brown, WR, (1984-1987). Won the Heisman Trophy in 1987. Coach Lou Holtz called him, “the most intelligent player I ever coached.” His quick cuts and great speed resulted in many exciting punt returns.
7. Dave Casper, TE, (1970-1974). One of the first great pass catching tight ends. Earned first team All-America in 1973, helping the Irish bam ‘Bama for the national championship.
8. George Conner,OT,LB (1944-1947). First team All America in 1946. The first player selected in the 1946 NFL draft by the New York Giants.
9. Dave Duerson, DB (1980-1983). The hard hitting safety was a Notre Dame Tri-Captain in 1982. He was chosen as the NFL Man of the Year in 1987.
10. Bill Fischer, DL, (1945-1948). Outland Trophy winner in 1948 as the nations best lineman. Was a major contributor to an Irish 21 game winning streak.
11. Michael Floyd, WR, (2008-2011). Set a school record with 28 touchdown receptions. Helped the Irish destroy Miami in the 2011 Sun Bowl.
12. George Gipp, RB (1917-1920). Notre Dame’s first All American. Immortalized for his farewell request to coach Knute Rockne. He was talented enough to man a number of positions.
13. Leon Hart, DL, (1946-1949). Received every major college football award in 1949, Including the Heisman Trophy. He was selected as The Athlete of the Year by Associated Press.
14. Paul Hornung, QB (1954-1956). The “Golden Boy” was the only player to win the Heisman Trophy as a member of a team with a losing record, as the Irish went 2 and 8 in 1956.
15. John Huarte, QB (1962-1964). Established nine Notre Dame records even though he only played five minutes as a sophomore and 45 minutes as a Junior.
16. Raghib “Rocket” Ismail, WR (1988-1990). Two-time All American was second to Ty Detmetr of Brigham Young for the 1990 Heisman award. Set school record for yards per catch at 22.0. He raced for the winning touchdown in the final seconds of an Orange Bowl game against Colorado, only to have the score nullified by a penalty.
17. John Lattner, RB (1951-1953 ). Scored 20 touchdowns and 120 points in his career. Had outstanding performances against the Sooners, Boilermakers, Trojans, and Hawkeyes. He received the 1953 Heisman Trophy.
18.John Lujack QB, (1945-1947). Led Notre Dame to 26-0 win over previously unbeaten army. Sorry Scarlet Knights. Awarded 1947 Heisman Trophy.
19. Ken MacAfee, TE, (1974-1977). Brilliant Tight End who specialized in acrobatic catches. Was chosen All American in 1976 and 1977.
20.Joe Montana.QB,(1975-1978). Best remembered for leading The Irish to a 1979 Cotton Bowl comeback victory over Houston, as Notre Dame scored 23 points in the final 7:37. Remember that Cougars?
21. Manti Te’o, LB, (2009-2011 ). Current leader of the Notre Dame defense. Teo has 261 career tackles.
22.Alan Page, DL (1964-1966 ). Consensus All American in 1966. Led the champion Irish with 63 tackles.
23. Pat Terrell, DB, (1986-1989 ). Has to be on the list for knocking down the last pass in a 31-30 victory over Miami. That was one of the happiest moments in Notre Dame history. The Hurricanes are still crying.
24.Joe Theisman, QB, (1968-1970 ). Second to Standford’s Jim Plunkett in 1970 Heisman voting. Theisman passed for 31 touchdowns.
25. Chris Zorich, DL, (1988-1990 ). Inducted into College Football Hall of Fame in 2007. All American in 1989 and 1990. Constant maximum effort reflected fight of The Irish.
Daniel Dechenaux is a Notre Dame graduate with an M.A. degree in Communication Arts.
References: The Official Site of Notre Dame Athletics
The Oral History of Notre Dame Football; Steve Delsohn; 2001