Dec 10, 2013, 1:02 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.
All right, I’m moving a bit slow through these rankings. We’re getting close to finals week here at ND, so if anyone wants to write a paper on The Brothers Karamazov for me, I can probably pop another one of these out by tomorrow.
It’s been almost a week since my last post, so hopefully you haven’t forgotten, but I’m in the middle of ranking the top 100 players in Notre Dame history. Here’s #66 through #70:
#70: Pat Filley – Guard – 1942-1944
Consensus All-American (1943), 2nd-team All-American (1944), National Champion (1943)
Now, I’m not sure, but I don’t think 5’8”, 178 pounds gets you on the All-America list for linemen anymore. But even back then, 5’8” was a little on the small side for linemen. I’m not sure that mattered to Pat Filley, though, who was a two-year starter at guard, including on the ’43 championship team. The South Bend native was the only two-time captain for the Irish between 1919 and 1968.
Filley is also our first player in the rankings to be named a consensus All-American in his junior season, and his stock might have been hurt the next year due to, you know, his teammates going off to war. In 1943, he was one of five Irish players to win consensus All-American status.
Remember, this was still the time of two-way football. That means if you made a national college all-star team of 11 players, nearly half of them came from Notre Dame. But in 1944, Filley was the only one left of the five.
After graduation, Filley worked in Cornell’s athletic department, eventually becoming associate athletic director.
#69: Jack Cannon – Guard – 1927-1929
Consensus All-American (1929), National Champion (1929)
Dubbed the best guard in Notre Dame history by Grantland Rice in 1947, Jack Cannon only got one year as a starter to impress the legendary sportswriter.
In that one year (1929), he was one of only two Notre Dame first-team All-Americans, tied for the lowest number for a championship team (1973). The other player was legendary quarterback Frank Carideo, but we’ll get to him later.
Cannon was on everyone’s list for All-American except the North American Newspaper Alliance. Unsurprisingly, the paper stopped picking All-Americans by 1937.
Cannon led a dominant 9-0 team that surrendered just 4.2 points per game and defeated Army 7-0 to cap off the national championship run. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1965.
#68: Jim Kelly – End – 1961-1963
2x 1st-team All-American (1962, 1963)
1962: 41 receptions for 523 yards, 4 TDs
1963: 18 receptions for 264 yards, 2 TDs
Jim Kelly’s stats might not look that impressive in this day and age, but I’m all about historical perspective. In 1962 he caught 41 passes for 523 yards and 4 touchdowns. The rest of his teammates combined (19 of them!) caught 49 passes for 633 yards and 3 touchdowns. He set a Notre Dame record for receptions in a season with that All-American junior campaign.
An often commenter on the blog, 1historian will be glad to hear what I have to say next. Kelly was the first end in a tremendous succession that puts the 21st century Irish tight end stars to shame. From 1962 to 1977, Notre Dame’s ends (split and wide) included, in order: Kelly, Jack Snow, Jim Seymour, Tom Gatewood, Dave Casper, Pete Demmerle and Ken MacAfee. I’ve already talked about Casper and Demmerle, but the rest are sure to come on this list.
That’s a truly remarkable run.
#67: Mike Townsend – Defensive Back – 1971-1973
Consensus All-American (1973), National Champion (1973)
1972: 34 tackles, 10 interceptions
1973: 23 tackles, 3 interceptions, 3 fumble recoveries
In a constantly evolving game, it’s hard for school records to stand up much over time. The game moves faster with more plays and more scoring as athletes get bigger and stronger.
One of the records that has stood the test of time is Mike Townsend’s 10 interceptions in 1972. No Irish player has ever reached that mark before or since. That number was also good for best in the nation in ’72 – and that arguably wasn’t even Townsend’s best season.
After playing cornerback his junior year, Townsend moved to free safety as a captain of the 1973 championship team. Despite the position change, he still forced six turnovers and was named a consensus All-American.
#66: Bill Shakespeare – Halfback – 1933-1935
1st-team All-American (1935), 3rd in Heisman (1935)
1935: 104 rushes for 374 yards, 4 TDs; 267 passing yards, 3 TDs
At least a two-seed in a Notre Dame “best names” bracket, Bill Shakespeare is listed as a halfback, but I think that’s because head coach Elmer Layden was forced to give him some kind of position designation. He led the team in passing (in ’34 and ’35), rushing (’35), punting (’34 and ’35), kickoff returns (’34 and ’35), and scoring (’35). In the first Heisman trophy voting in ‘35, Shakespeare finished third behind Jay Berwanger and Monk Meyer and ahead of Pepper Constable (no, I’m still not making these names up).
Shakespeare may be best known for his game-winning touchdown pass in the 1935 game of the century to Wayne Millner (#82 on the list). That contest saw the Irish score three fourth-quarter touchdowns, in what was voted the greatest college football game of all time in 1969.
The original jack-of-all-trades before Paul Hornung made it cool (but I guess Gipp was first), Shakespeare doesn’t get a lot of attention from Notre Dame fans despite his outstanding career. The College Football Hall of Fame apparently took note, though, because he was inducted in 1983.
I already showed this clip for Millner’s bio, but here it is again for Shakespeare. Sorry for the repeat, but there’s not a lot on youtube for these five guys. Plus, the narration is fantastic (“What’s this? Another pass?”). Link here if video doesn’t work.
I’ll hopefully keep the blogs coming during finals, so don’t tune out just yet. Nos. 61-65 coming soon.
66. Bill Shakespeare
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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