Nov 6, 2013, 1:48 AM EST
Craig Chval, the official 2013 football beat writer for the Strong & True blog, is currently a junior at the University of Notre Dame. Over the course of the year Craig will bring you insight from within the student section, interviews with Fighting Irish players and previews of each game. You can follow Craig (and the rest of the Notre Dame student beat writing staff) on twitter at @JrNDBloggers.
In case you missed my last post, I will be revealing my top 100 Notre Dame players of all time over the next couple months. You can read the intro post here.
I mentioned in that intro that there are 143 1st-team All-Americans in Notre Dame history. In a list of 100 players, it’s hard to justify putting a guy on the list who never made the first-team. But there are four special cases: players who finished in the Heisman voting. I decided if you finish in the Heisman, you deserve to be on the list. So we start this week with three of those four guys (the fourth is pretty easy to guess).
I’ll also say this: if you include every consensus All-American, every two-time All-American, and every player to receive Heisman votes, that’s 95 players right there. Just remember that if you think someone got unfairly left off. But anyway, let’s begin.
#100: Frank Dancewicz – Quarterback – 1943-1945
2nd-team All-American (1945), 6th in Heisman (1945), National Champion (1943)
As backup to Angelo Bertelli and Johnny Lujack during the 1943 championship run, Dancewicz had plenty of tutelage when he took over the reins in 1944 after both Bertelli and Lujack went into military active duty.
Dancewicz couldn’t live up to those two (who could?), but he did lead the heavily depleted Irish to back-to-back seasons with top-ten finishes. His career record as a starter was 15-4-1, and it’s hard to ignore that 1945 Heisman finish.
#99: Ziggy Czarobski – Tackle – 1942-1943, 1946-1947
1st-team All-American (1947), 3x National Champion (1943, 1946, 1947)
One of the several Leahy players who served in World War II (in addition to Leahy himself), Zygmont “Ziggy” Czarobski’s two-year break from the team allowed him to be a starter on three national title teams. Upon returning from the war, he was drafted by his hometown Chicago Cardinals, but chose to return to Notre Dame.
One of the most popular players in Notre Dame history, Ziggy was known for his joking nature that belied his intensity on the gridiron. His play and leadership on those three championship teams cemented his status as one of the five players that made the list without being a Heisman finalist or consensus/two-time All-American. He was also inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1977.
#98: Bob Kelly – Halfback – 1943-1944
2nd-team All-American (1944), 6th in Heisman (1944), National Champion (1943)
1944: 133 carries for 676 yards, 13 total TDs
Bob Kelly only spent two years on the football team before serving in the navy in World War II, but his spectacular year in 1944 puts him on the list. As a sophomore, he was the best player on that depleted team that managed to finish 8-2.
He also has the misfortune of being a halfback the same year as “Mr. Outside” himself, Army’s Glenn Davis. While that did keep him off the All-America team, he finished sixth in the Heisman in a stacked year (Les Horvath, Davis, and Doc “Mr. Inside” Blanchard).
Despite Kelly’s season, he failed to make the team after returning from the war. It’s indicative of just how ridiculous Leahy’s teams were in the ‘40s. So remember as we go forward, Notre Dame has had a lot of amazing players over the years. When you think someone is ranked too low, he had some stiff competition.
#97: Reggie Brooks – Tailback / Defensive Back – 1989-1992
2nd-team All-American (1992), 5th in Heisman (1992)
1992: 167 carries for 1,343 yards, 14 total TDs
Our first non-member of the 1943 team, Reggie Brooks is a tough guy to rate. Most of the players on the list had multiple great years, but he had one very spectacular season. His 8.0 yards per carry in 1992 is second only to George Gipp. Even more amazing is that before that season, he’d only had 31 carries in his entire career.
His sophomore season was spent at defensive back, where he had 22 tackles and an interception. But he moved to running back for 1991 where he played behind Rodney Culver and older brother Tony Brooks. The next year he took over the starting role and turned in one of the best seasons by a running back in Notre Dame history. Largely due to Brooks, the 1992 Irish finished 10-1-1 with a final ranking of #4.
All you need to know about Reggie’s ability is on display in this great interview about his most memorable run.
(If the video doesn’t work, here’s a link).
Brooks now works with the Monogram Club as the manager for monogram/football alumni relations.
#96: Jim Martin – End / Tackle – 1946-1949
1st-team All-American (1949), 3x National Champion (1946, 1947, 1949)
“Jungle Jim” Martin, another one of Leahy’s Lads, started four years during the best run in Notre Dame history. Over Martin’s career, the Irish went 36-0-2 with three national titles and another #2 finish.
Martin’s All-American season came in 1949 as a tackle. Amazingly, it was his first year at the position after playing end his first three years. Besides being a stalwart on some of Notre Dame’s best teams of all time, Martin was the university’s heavyweight boxing champion.
Jungle Jim got his nickname by serving in the jungles of the Pacific with the Marines during World War II. In fact, Leahy recruited him to come to Notre Dame on Iwo Jima.
But anyway, there’s the first five guys on the rankings. Too high? Too low? Who will the next five be? The suspense is killing me. Tune in next week for #91-95.
96. Jim Martin
97. Reggie Brooks
98. Bob Kelly
99. Ziggy Czarobski
100. Frank Dancewicz
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