Jan 15, 2014, 5:05 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.
The 2013 season is over and the new semester has begun here at Notre Dame, so get ready for ND Rank to pick back up again. While much of the bottom half of the top 100 featured linemen, I’m making up for it now with a wealth of skill position players, especially wide receivers. The three pass-catchers today are very hard to differentiate, so it might be best to think of it as a three-way tie.
#45: Jim Seymour – Split End – 1966-1968
3x 1st-team All-American (1966-1968), National Champion (1966)
1966: 48 receptions for 862 yards, 8 TDs
1967: 37 receptions for 515 yards, 4 TDs
1968: 53 receptions for 736 yards, 4 TDs
There remain a select few number of Irish players who are three-time All-Americans. Our first, Jim Seymour, is joined by fellow greats Leon Hart, Ken MacAfee, Chris Zorich, and Luther Bradley. Those are the only five.
As the favorite target of Terry Hanratty, he led the team in receiving each of his three years. His 862 yards in 1966 were almost as much as the rest of the team combined (947). Like Huarte and Snow before them, Hanratty and Seymour (“Mr. Fling” and “Mr. Cling”) formed an intimidating duo. As sophomores in 1966 they led the Irish to their first national championship since 1949.
Their first game that season, the two connected for 276 yards in a 26-14 victory over Purdue. It was no small victory, as the Boilermakers finished sixth in the polls and beat USC in the Rose Bowl. Seymour’s 276 yards that game remain a school record, and they came in the first game of his career and his quarterback’s.
Seymour finished his career as the Notre Dame leader in receptions, only to be passed by Tom Gatewood three years later. Hanratty’s favorite target was drafted in the first round of the 1969 NFL Draft and played three seasons for the Bears. He died from cancer in 2011.
Here are some plays from that epic first game for Hanratty and Seymour against Purdue.
#44: Tom Gatewood – Split End – 1969-1971
2x 1st-team All-American (1970, 1971), Consensus All-American (1970)
1970: 79 receptions for 1,166 yards, 8 TDs
1971: 33 receptions for 417 yards, 4 TDs
I’ve talked a lot about how today’s pass-happy state of football makes it hard to compare the present to the past by looking at stats. When you look at the Notre Dame receiving record books, they are filled almost exclusively with players from the last 20 years – and Tom Gatewood.
Gatewood left Notre Dame with almost every school receiving record there is. His 157 career receptions and 1,123 receiving yards in a season were the best until Jeff Samardzija. He held the record for career receiving yards (2,283) until Tim Brown won the Heisman. His eight games with 100+ receiving yards in 1970 went untouched until Golden Tate’s 2009 season (and Tate had an extra game). He had the most career touchdowns with 19 until Derrick Mayes 24 years later.
A captain of the 1971 team, Gatewood complemented his record-breaking on-field performance with two seasons as an Academic All-American as well.
Gatewood played a pivotal role in Notre Dame’s upset victory over #1 Texas in the 1971 Cotton Bowl. Here are some highlights of that classic game.
And speaking of Golden Tate…
#43: Golden Tate – Wide Receiver – 2007-2009
Unanimous All-American (2009), 10th in Heisman (2009), Biletnikoff Award (2009)
2009: 93 receptions for 1,496 yards, 15 TDs; 25 carries for 186 yards, 2 TDs; 12 punt returns for 171 yards, 1 TD
The most electrifying Irish player since The Rocket, Golden Tate delivered one of the best seasons ever by a wide receiver at Notre Dame in 2009. His 1,496 receiving yards that season are 250 more than the next highest (Jeff Samardzija in 2005). He left Notre Dame the leader in career receiving yards with 2,707 despite forgoing his senior season. Michael Floyd passed him, however, in 2011.
Tate was the best weapon on the offensively charged 2009 team, finishing with at least 100 yards in nine of the 12 games. He was the only player to appear on an All-America ballot and was 1st team on all of them. He earned the Biletnikoff Award for best wide receiver in the country and even collected a couple first-place Heisman votes despite being on a 6-6 team.
Drafted in the second round in the 2010 NFL Draft, Tate has been a productive member of the Seattle Seahawks. His breakout 2013 campaign included 898 yards and five touchdowns. The Seahawks play in the NFC Championship on Sunday.
I’m sure Tate is recent enough that your memory of his great plays is relatively fresh, but enjoy. Link here if video doesn’t work.
#42: Jim Crowley – Halfback – 1922-1924
#41: Harry Stuhldreher – Quarterback – 1922-1924
Consensus All-American (1924), National Champion (1924)
I’ll write this bio together since it’s hard to separate these two entries. Two more members of the Four Horsemen, Jim Crowley and Harry Stulhdreher were both driving forces of the 1924 championship team – Notre Dame’s first. They were both consensus All-Americans in 1924, along with teammate Elmer Layden, the fullback. Of course, Don Miller – #51 on this list – completes the group.
Crowley started at left halfback in 1923 and 1924 after backing up Layden in ’22. “Sleepy Jim’s” shifty style complemented Miller, the open field threat. Standing at just 5’7”, Stuhldreher was the starting quarterback for Rockne almost every game in his three year career. He also returned punts for the Irish.
90 years later, it’s hard to tell how much of the legend of the Four Horsemen is hype and how much is genuine. None of the players was taller than 6 feet or weighed more than 170 pounds. The unstoppable “cyclone” of Grantland Rice scored a whopping 13 points against Army in that famous 1924 game.
Nevertheless, Crowley, Stuhldreher, and company quite possibly formed the most dominant backfield in the history of college football. With four All-Americans in the backfield leading their team to a 19-1 record, it’s hard to argue with the facts.
After college Crowley ended up coaching Michigan State, Fordham, and North Carolina Pre-Flight. He had two top-ten finishes at Fordham, including a Sugar Bowl victory in 1941. A native of Green Bay, Crowley went to Curly Lambeau’s high school and coached Vince Lombardi at Fordham.
Stuhldreher also coached, leading Villanova and Wisconsin. In 1942 his Wisconsin team finished third in the polls. He wrote the book Knute Rockne, Man Builder, which was drawn from for the movie Knute Rockne, All American.
41. Harry Stuhldreher
42. Jim Crowley
43. Golden Tate
44. Tom Gatewood
45. Jim Seymour
47. Al Ecuyer
48. Bobby Taylor
49. Clarence Ellis
50. Creighton Miller
52. Alan Page
53. Vagas Ferguson
54. Jack Snow
55. Greg Marx
57. Tom Regner
58. Tony Rice
59. Gus Dorais
60. Jim White
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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