Skip to content

How The Green Jerseys Came To Be

Jan 2, 2014, 11:29 PM EDT

Rachel Murphy, the official 2013-14 women’s basketball beat writer for the In The Paint blog, is currently a sophomore at St. Mary’s College. Over the course of the year Rachel will bring you insight from within the student section, interviews with Fighting Irish players and stories from inside the team circle. You can follow Rachel (and the rest of the Notre Dame student beat writing staff) on twitter at @JrNDBloggers. In today’s piece, Rachel talks about a story many people always wondered about; how the football squad’s green jerseys came to be…

The 1977 “Green Jersey” game versus Southern California is one of the most iconic moments in Notre Dame football history. Being the daughter of a 1977 national champion, I’ve heard the story from practically every name on that roster. No matter who is telling the story, one name always comes up: Digger Phelps.

You might be wondering why the then men’s basketball coach even comes up in the discussion, but those on the field that day know Digger is the reason they wore green.

“Dan’s first year here I told him…why don’t you wear green for Southern Cal,” recalls Phelps.

The first two years it was a no go, but year three, with the team on their way to a national title, was the year of the green. Come Southern Cal week, Devine finally broke the news to Phelps, the green jerseys were a go.

“I said, ‘do you know how to do it?’” Phelps quipped. If the green jersey idea was going to happen, Phelps wanted it executed perfectly. He told Devine to let the team warm up in blue, and during that time, let the student managers put the green jerseys in each locker.

“And when the team comes upstairs, shut the door,” Digger said, “I don’t care if you have to take a delay of game, let Southern Cal be on that field before you come back down and out that tunnel.”

And that’s exactly what happened, just ask Joe Montana. One of the legendary captains of the ’77 team (not to mention an NFL legend), Montana, took the time to talk to me about that game.

“Devine was talking all week about ‘green, be wearing your green for the Irish’,” said Montana, “we couldn’t figure it out, so we went out for warm-ups in our normal jerseys.”

Unknown to everyone but the captains and coaches, the locker room was undergoing a Digger-inspired transformation.

“Then we go back in after workouts and everyone had green jerseys on their chairs.” Montana said. “Everyone was screaming and yelling in the locker room.”

The jerseys inspired perhaps the most memorable entrance in the history of Notre Dame football. With Southern Cal already on the field, a packed Notre Dame stadium looked on as a student built Trojan horse was rolled out onto the field. Out of that horse, just as in the Trojan War, came students donning green jerseys. However if it had been up to the captains, things would have gone a little differently.

“We wanted the captains to come out of there before the coin toss,” Montana said with a laugh. “But Devine wouldn’t let us.”

Once the horse was rolled out, the crowd already roaring, it was time for the Irish. With the eyes of the USC team and the nation upon them, the Irish ran out of the tunnel wearing the now-famous green jerseys that shocked the world.

“Sometimes it takes a little spark to get you going, and that’s what it was,” said Montana. “It was something to get us a little more hyped for something we really didn’t need to be more hyped for. It worked out well.”

That it did. The dramatic entrance electrified the crowd, giving Notre Dame an edge and shocking the Trojans. The Irish won 49-19 in a game now know as “The Green Jersey Game.”

Digger’s plan reflected his personality, bold and daring with a little bit of flash. It sparked the Irish and contributed to a key win in the championship season. You could call Phelps’ idea a stroke of genius, or you could call it Devine intervention.

  1. Aaron Horvath - Jan 2, 2014 at 11:30 PM

    Reblogged this on Notre Dame Basketball.

  2. 1historian - Jan 3, 2014 at 8:58 AM

    Great story. Thanks

  3. 9irish - Jan 3, 2014 at 9:39 AM

    I remember that very well..and I was just a kid. My feeling about the green jerseys, football wise, they used up the surprise factor. Use them as the “other” home jersey. Just dark kelly green, with white numbers, just like the blue ones. All of that came from the 40s….there were really no white jerseys. ND wore blue or green depending on the color of who they were playing. I would love to see that.

  4. - Jan 3, 2014 at 3:00 PM


    Your green jersey post has sparked some lively back and forth about the last time the Irish wore green before Devine USC game and Digger’s slightly exaggerated remembering of his role (which is to be expected).

    We’re seeking an answer and will let you know if we find it.

    Joe Bride ’58

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

About Strong and True

Welcome to Strong and True, the official blog providing in-depth and exclusive access to Notre Dame football. With features, videos, photos, commentaries and news from inside the program, we are committed to bringing you coverage of the Fighting Irish unlike any you can find elsewhere.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

ND Football on YouTube