Dec 15, 2013, 10:22 PM EDT
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.
While tonight Notre Dame celebrates its well-deserved national championship in what my youth football coach used to call communist football, enjoy another update in the top real football players in Irish history. Today we have some good ones with #61-65.
#65: Kevin Hardy – Defense Tackle / Defensive End – 1964-1967
2x 1st-team All-American (1966, 1967), 3rd-team All-American (1964), National Champion (1966)
1967: 33 tackles, 1 interception, 2 pass breakups
A three-sport athlete at Notre Dame, Kevin Hardy battled in the trenches for Parseghian’s incredible defenses of the ‘60s. His first year playing in 1964, he was on the Newspaper Enterprise Association’s third-team All-America team. An injury kept him off the field in ’65, but he would return for the ’66 championship team.
He gained a few more accolades his last two years, earning first-team honors for both seasons. At Notre Dame Hardy earned monograms for basketball and baseball too, hitting nearly .400 his senior season.
Hardy played on the fearsome defensive line of 1966 alongside Tom Rhoads, Pete Duranko, and Alan Page. Even when his three linemates graduated that year, Hardy led the revamped line of the ’67 team that went 8-2 and finished fifth in the final AP poll.
#64: John Scully – Center/ Offensive Tackle – 1977-1980
Unanimous All-American (1980), National Champion (1977)
One of three captains for the 1980 team – Devine’s last – John Scully started two years at center after moving from the tackle position. That 1980 team would be the last decent team for a few years before Holtz showed up. They were ranked #1 for one week and could have played for the national championship had they beaten USC at the end of the season.
Scully is our first unanimous All-American, a designation given to just 29 Notre Dame players over the years that are chosen as a first-teamer on every major media outlet. The AP, UPI, NEA, Coaches Association, Sporting News, Football Writers Association, and Football News all said Scully was the best center in the country in 1980.
Although Scully was an all-time great on the line for Notre Dame, fans might appreciate him more for his post-collegiate contribution: he co-wrote and co-produced the song “Here Come the Irish,” which is ubiquitous over campus on game days and plays before Notre Dame takes the field. He’d probably have his own statue already if only he’d also written “Crazy Train.”
After Notre Dame, Scully was drafted in the fourth round of the NFL draft and played 10 seasons in the league, all with the Falcons.
#63: Tom Clements – Quarterback – 1972-1974
1st-team All-American (1974), 4th in Heisman (1974), National Champion (1973)
1974: 122 completions on 215 attempts for 1,549 yards, 12 total TDs, 11 INTs
Although Tom Clements received most of his accolades in his final season in 1974, he is definitely remembered more for his junior year, when Notre Dame won its 9th national championship.
The title was decided in the Sugar Bowl – the first matchup between the Irish and Bear Bryant’s Crimson Tide. Notre Dame was winning 24-23 with two minutes to go, but they were pinned at the Alabama two-yard line with a 3rd and 8. With a full-house backfield, Clements successfully executed a play-action pass to Robin Weber, whose 36-yard reception sealed the victory.
Clements completed the pass from his own end zone with an Alabama defender in his face to a tight end who had one reception for 11 yards before that Sugar Bowl. Clements was named MVP of the title-clinching game over the top-ranked Crimson Tide.
In 1974, Clements was named co-captain of the Irish, was chosen as a first-team All-American by the Football Writers Association of America, and finished fourth in the Heisman. Here’s the play that sealed the Sugar Bowl victory. Link here if the video doesn’t work.
#62: Shane Walton – Cornerback – 2000-2002
Unanimous All-American (2002)
2002: 68 tackles, 7 interceptions for 84 yards, 2 TDs
Our next unanimous All-American on the list, Shane Walton’s story is pretty well known among Notre Dame fans. The leading scorer on the soccer team as a freshman in 1998, he made the switch to football the next year as a walk on.
A three-year starter at cornerback, Walton might be best known as captain of the 2002 team that saw the Irish win 10 games for the first time since 1993. It was an odd season fueled by defensive scores and turnovers, several of which were generated by Walton. Much in the same way Manti Te’o was the impetus of 2012’s success, Shane Walton got that 2002 team to its 8-0 start and 10-win finish.
The season began with a 22-0 victory over Maryland, in which Walton intercepted three passes. The Irish went to 3-0 a couple weeks later after beating #7 Michigan 25-23. The Wolverines missed a late two-point conversion to tie after Walton batted down the pass, and he sealed the game with an interception with 21 seconds to go. At the end of the season, Walton finished with seven interceptions, two of them for touchdowns.
After being exposed in bad losses to Boston College, USC, and NC State, that team dropped to 17th in the polls. I think it’s actually a testament to Walton that he was able to carry such a flawed team for so long, with big wins over Michigan (#9 in final ranking) and Florida State (#21).
Check out some of Walton’s highlights here. Link here if video doesn’t work.
#61: Allen Pinkett – Tailback – 1982-1985
2x 1st-team All-American (1983, 1985), 8th in Heisman (1985)
1983: 252 carries for 1,394 yards, 16 TDs; 28 receptions for 288 yards, 2 TDs
1984: 275 carries for 1,105 yards, 17 TDs; 19 receptions for 257 yards, TD
1985: 255 carries for 1,100 yards, 11 TDs; 17 receptions for 135 yards
One of the most consistent players in Notre Dame history, Allen Pinkett still holds the record for rushing touchdowns in a career with 49 and is second in yards with 4,131 (to Autry Denson). His 17 rushing touchdowns in 1984 is tied for the most in a season with Vagas Ferguson. To put that in perspective, the entire 2013 Irish team has 10 rushing touchdowns.
In his first year as a starter as a sophomore, Pinkett led the team in rushing and receptions, finishing with nearly 1,700 yards from scrimmage and 18 total touchdowns. He became the first Irish running back to tally 1,000 rushing yards in a season three times.
Unfortunately, Pinkett suffers from playing for Gerry Faust for four years. The team’s 25-20-1 record in that span probably didn’t help his award or All-America stock. Nevertheless, he did end up as a Heisman finalist his senior year – it’s a testament to the overall strength of his career that he was only a finalist in his worst statistical season.
We’re at the point in the rankings where I can’t choose just one player (or two) to highlight, so here’s a video of one of Pinkett’s best games. Link here if video doesn’t work.
Happy finals week everybody.
61. Allen Pinkett
62. Shane Walton
63. Tom Clements
64. John Scully
65. Kevin Hardy
67. Mike Townsend
68. Jim Kelly
69. Jack Cannon
70. Pat Filley
72. Christie Flanagan
73. Dave Casper
74. Dave Huffman
75. George Kunz
77. Tommy Yarr
78. Pete Demmerle
79. Nick Rassas
80. John Yonakor
82. Wayne Millner
83. John Smith
84. Dick Arrington
85. Art Boeringer
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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