Nov 16, 2013, 6:06 PM 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.
Notre Dame football has the week off, so it’s a great chance to get ahead on ND Rank. My countdown of the top 100 Notre Dame players of all time continues today with #86-90.
#90: Gerry DiNardo – Offensive Guard – 1972-1974
Consensus All-American (1974), National Champion (1973)
Although his breakout season was his senior year in ’74, Gerry DiNardo was a crucial player in the 1973 juggernaut national championship team. The offense rushed for an incredible 3,502 yards over an 11-0 season. That’s still an Irish record.
After that season, DiNardo became one of the best guards in the country, blocking for the still-potent rushing attack of Wayne Bullock and Al Samuel. After his playing days at Notre Dame were over, DiNardo went straight to coaching. He has been the head coach at Vanderbilt, LSU, and Indiana.
Somehow, we had made it this far without a Parseghian player. Trust me, DiNardo is the first of very many.
#89: Nick Pietrosante – Fullback – 1956-1958
1st-team All-American (1958), 3rd-team All-American (1957), 10th in Heisman (1958)
1957: 90 carries for 449 yards, 2 TDs
1958: 117 carries for 556 yards, 4 TDs
One of just two Notre Dame fullbacks ever to receive Heisman votes, Nick Pietrosante may be better known for his NFL career than his college one. He was rookie of the year in 1959 and retired as the Detroit Lions all-time leading rusher, and he is still fifth on that list.
Yet, as I set forth in the intro, this list is about college, not the pros. And Pietrosante had a fantastic Notre Dame career as well, leading the team in rushing two straight years.
Now, at the end-of-season award show every year, there is a Nick Pietrosante Award given to the “student-athlete who best exemplified the courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication, and pride of the late Irish All-America fullback.” Pietrosante died of cancer in 1988 at the age of 50.
#88: Mirko Jurkovic – Offensive Guard / Defensive Tackle – 1988-1991
Consensus All-American (1991), National Champion (1988)
Although not a starter, Mirko Jurkovic started his career off with a national championship season his freshman year on the defensive line. He made the shift to guard the next year and became a starter in 1990.
One of the best linemen in the country in 1991, Jurkovic was the leader of a unit that blocked for Jerome Bettis and Rodney Culver, who rushed for 269 yards a game. A long-time Bears fan from Calumet City, Ill., he was drafted by Chicago in the 1992 NFL draft.
After fighting a two-year battle with colon cancer, Jurkovic passed away in January.
#87: Jeff Burris – Free Safety / Tailback – 1990-1993
Consensus All-American (1993)
1992: 73 tackles, 5 interceptions, 7 carries for 19 yards, 3 TDs
1993: 53 tackles, 3 interceptions, 16 carries for 92 yards, 6 TDs
One of three captains for the 1993 near-championship team (can you be bitter about something you were barely alive for?), Jeff Burris comes in at #87 as the first primarily defensive player on the list. I say primarily because he also featured as Lou Holtz’s goal line tailback, amassing 10 touchdowns in his career on just 29 carries. He had two touchdowns against Florida State in the “Game of the Century.”
But Burris’ mark on the program would be made in the defensive backfield, where he started at free safety for three years. Arguably the best player at the position for the Irish in 20 years (Mike Townsend captained the 1973 team), he led the Irish defense in minutes played for two seasons.
From running in touchdowns to shutting down opponent receivers, Burris’ value lay in his all-around ability – did I mention he was the team’s punt returner in 1991? He only returned one after that season, but it was for a 60-yard touchdown. The hard-hitting safety was honored nationally with consensus All-American status in ’93.
Here’s a video of some of Burris’ highlights (was TV really that bad in 1993?). Link here if video doesn’t work.
#86: Art Hunter – Tackle – 1951-1953
Consensus All-American (1953)
I listed “tackle” as Art Hunter’s position because that was the position he played during his All-American senior season, but that doesn’t exactly do him justice. I talked about Burris’ all-around ability, but at least he was a safety all three of his years starting.
Hunter began his career as a center in 1951, taking over for former captain and all-time great Jerry Groom. In ’52 he moved to end, where he had 16 receptions for 256 yards and a touchdown. He moved back to the less-glamorous part of the line, but this time as a tackle. Three years as a starter, all at different positions.
Hunter proved to be at his best at his new position, leading the Irish to a 9-0-1 record and No. 2 finish in the polls. He led the team in minutes played in ’53 and was named a consensus All-American.
As always, let me know what you think in the comments. #81-85 coming soon.
86. Art Hunter
87. Jeff Burris
88. Mirko Jurkovic
89. Nick Pietrosante
90. Gerry DiNardo
92. Frank Rydzewski
93. Eddie Anderson
94. Jack Robinson
95. Chuck Sweeney
97. Reggie Brooks
98. Bob Kelly
99. Ziggy Czarobski
100. Frank Dancewicz
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