After being shifted from linebacker to nose guard, Zorich excelled along the D-line and helped lead the Irish to an unbeaten National Championship as a sophomore in 1988. He received some All-America recognition that season and went on to become a consensus All-America pick the next two seasons in South Bend (1989, 1990). He was named the UPI National Lineman of the Year as a junior and won the Lombardi Award and Orange Bowl MVP award as a senior. Zorich was drafted in the second round of the 1991 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears.
It is very difficult to remove the illustrious pro career Bettis had from the equation. A rare blend of size, power and quickness, Bettis is a once-in-a-lifetime type of talent. Aside from his NFL Rookie of the Year award, his six Pro Bowls, his Super Bowl championship and finishing as the NFL's fifth-leading rusher of all-time, Bettis got his start bowling over opponents in South Bend. He had only 337 career college carries for 1,912 yards, but he was good enough to be drafted with the 10th overall pick in the 1993 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams. "The Bus" will be a Hall of Famer in the NFL one day soon.
A Notre Dame legacy, Brooks was originally recruited to play defensive back but was converted to running back for the 1991 season. His talent was on display immediately and eventually led to one of the best single seasons an Irish running back has ever had. In 1992, Brooks rushed for 1,343 yards — good for second-best in school history — averaging over 8.0 yards per carry and scoring 13 TDs. Brooks was named to the All-America team and finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting. He was selected in the second round of the 1993 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins.
The Irish linebacker is the most decorated college football player in history. He finished his career with 437 tackles, 34.0 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, 7 interceptions and led Notre Dame to an unbeaten 12-0 regular season record and the BCS National Championship game. He finished second in the Heisman voting and swept the postseason awards, winning the Butkus, Nagurski, Bednarik, Walter Camp, Lott, Lombardi and Maxwell awards — the first defensive player to win the Maxwell since fellow Golden Domer Ross Browner in 1977. Despite the poor showing in the title game as well as a bizarre fake girlfriend hoax, Te'o is easily one of the greatest Fighting Irish of all-time.
Few players have ever been on three All-America teams, but MacAfee did just that when he landed on a few first-teams in 1975 before becoming a two-time consensus selection in 1976 and 1977. An academic All-American in 1977 as well, MacAfee earned the Walter Camp Award and finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting. Notre Dame went 38-9 in his time in South Bend, and he helped lead the Irish to the 1977 National Championship. He finished with 128 receptions for 1,759 yards and 15 touchdowns. MacAfee was inducted into the NCAA Football Hall of Fame in 1997. He was the seventh overall pick in the 1978 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers.
As a sophomore, Rice got onto the field due to injuries and helped lead the Irish to an 8-4 mark and their first Top 25 ranking in nearly a decade. It was the building block needed to compete for a national title in 1988. With a loaded roster around him, Rice led the Irish to a perfect 12-0 record and the 1988 National Championship over West Virginia. As an encore, Rice won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting and was an All-American following his 12-1 senior season. That one loss coming against Miami in the de facto national title elimination regular-season finale. Rice went 24-1 in his two full seasons as the starter. The Irish champion never made it into the NFL but played professionally in the CFL and the World League.
Raghib "Rocket" Ismail was one clipping penalty away from leading Notre Dame to two National Championships. The 91-yard return TD in the 1990 title contest against Colorado was called back, and Ismail was left with only the 1988 National Championship on his resume. In 1990, Ishmail finished second in the Heisman voting to Ty Detmer and claimed the Walter Camp Award. He finished with 537 rushing yards, 699 receiving yards, 151 punt return yards and 336 kick return yards, totaling 1,723 all-purpose yards, which is still the fourth-best season in school history. There may not have been an Irish player with more "wow" factor than the Rocket. After a brief two-year Grey Cup MVP stint in Toronto in the CFL, Ishmail went on to a very productive eight-year NFL career.
"Touchdown Timmy" is the last Notre Dame player to claim the most coveted trophy in all of sports, the Heisman Trophy, which Brown earned in 1987. One of the most versatile players ever to play the game, Brown caught 39 passes for 846 yards (21.7 yards per catch), ran the ball 34 times for 144 yards, returned 23 kicks for 456 yards and returned 34 punts for 401 yards. All told, he posted 1,847 all-purpose yards (second all-time in school history to himself — he had 1,937 yards in 1986) and seven touchdowns — including three punt return TDs. His 2,493 career receiving yards were an all-time Notre Dame record. Brown was widely considered the most dangerous player in college football and was selected with the sixth overall pick in the 1988 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders. Brown went to nine Pro Bowls and is one of the most prolific receivers in NFL history. He was inducted into the NCAA Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
One of the most decorated defensive linemen in NCAA history, Browner was a four-year starter in South Bend. He was a unanimous All-America selection as both a junior and senior. In 1976, Browner was named the Outland Trophy winner as well as the UPI National Lineman of the Year. He followed that up in 1977 with a second UPI Lineman of the Year award to go with a Lombardi Award and the Maxwell Award, given to the nation's top player. Browner finished fifth in the Heisman balloting that season and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999. Notre Dame had a 39-7 record during his career, including National Championships in 1973 and 1977. He posted a school-record 340 tackles (at the time) and was selected with the 8th overall pick in the 1978 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals.
Montana was not allowed to play as a freshman in 1974, but flashed his late-game heroics early on in his sophomore season when he rallied the Irish against North Carolina in Chapel Hill — tossing for 129 yards and scoring 14 points in 1:02 of game time. He led a 20-point comeback the next week against Air Force, and the career of arguably the greatest fourth-quarter QB ever to play was in full force. After sitting out a year due to a seperated shoulder, Montana once again led a historic comeback in game three of the 1977 season. He started the next nine games — winning all of them — and led the Irish to the 1977 National Championship with a win over No. 1 Texas. In 1978, Montana pushed the Irish to a second straight Cotton Bowl win and a 9-3 overall record his final season. The "Chicken Soup Game" win over Houston in his final college game has become a legendary tale that was only a precursor of things to come for Golden Joe, Comeback Joe, Joe Cool and The Golden Great. Montana was a third-round pick by the 49ers in the 1979 NFL Draft and went on to win all four of his Super Bowl appearances — claiming three Super Bowl MVP trophies. He could be the greatest QB ever to play the game.
When he died early, in 1920, legendary Notre Dame star George Gipp told Knute Rockne, “Some time, Rock, when the team is up against it, when things are wrong and the breaks are beating the boys, tell them to go in there with all they’ve got and win just one for the Gipper.” Eight years later, after ND had lost two of its first six and was facing a powerful Army team, Rockne broke out the “Gipper” speech. It worked. The Irish scored two second-half touchdowns and upset the Cadets, 12-6.
Facing a third-and-nine from its own three and under a minute left, QB Tom Clements connected on a 36-yard pass with Robin Weber to preserve Notre Dame’s 24-23 lead over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and secure the win and a national title. Bob Thomas’ 19-yard field goal with 4:12 remaining gave the Irish the lead, and after an Alabama punt on the ensuing possession pinned the Irish back, Clements made the dramatic throw.
“Outlined against a blue, gray October sky, the Four Horsemen road again.” So began Grantland Rice’s legendary account of Notre Dame’s 13-7 win over Army at the Polo Grounds. Backs Harry Stuhldreher, Jim Crowley, Elmer Layden and Don Miller ran all over the Cadets and keyed a 10-0 season that culminated in a 27-10 win over Stanford in the Rose Bowl and a national title.
Second-ranked Oklahoma entered the game on a record 47-game winning streak and was considered invincible, while host ND, a three-touchdown underdog, had dropped two in a row under coach Terry Brennan and seemed quite vulnerable. But Dick Lynch’s three-yard run, keyed by a block from Nick Pietrosante, gives ND all it needs in a stunning, 7-0 upset win. Bob Williams’ late interception preserves the landmark victory.
Seven years after the forward pass had been legalized in college football, Notre Dame popularized the strategy in a groundbreaking 35-13 rout of mighty Army. Thought of solely as a regional force, ND shocked the Eastern football establishment with an aerial circus previously unseen in those parts. Gus Dorais connected repeatedly with end Knute Rockne to flummox the outflanked Cadets and begin the legend of the Fighting Irish.
Athlon Sports ranks the best dynasties in college football since the AP Poll debuted.
Dynasty is a word that gets tossed around all too liberally by fans and media members alike. However, there are periods of time in sports where the term is not only applicable but completely accurate. The NFL had the Packers of the '60s, the Steelers of the '70s, the 49ers of the '80s, the Cowboys of the '90s and the Patriots of the '00s. The NBA has the Celtics, Lakers, Bulls and soon-to-be Heat dynasties.
Spring practice has ended, here are all the key injuries, personnel decisions and storylines
Depending on your point of view, spring practice is either a respite from the football-free months of winter and a taste of things to come in August. On the other hand, it’s only appealing to the hardcore football fan.
Sure, there’s the same questions every year -- is my team’s defense really good or is the offense really bad, or vice versa. But there’s also plenty of news and notes.
Athlon Sports ranks the best Fighting Irish teams since the AP Poll debuted in 1934.
Notre Dame has experienced a sustained stretch of "lean" years since claiming its last national title in 1988, failing to compete on a national level for elite bowls or championships (at least until the 2012 season). That still doesn't take away from the one of the most storied histories in all of college football.