Jan 25, 2014, 2:32 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.
Last time I promised some modern players for this edition of ND Rank. In the tradition of Huarte/Snow, Hanratty/Seymour, and Theismann/Gatewood, you get Brady Quinn and Jeff Samardzija together. The connection between the two was one of the most exciting parts of the ’05-’06 BCS years.
Along with those two are three all-time great defensive linemen from the Ara years. I’m not sure I could have let Charlie Weis have the most players in one piece.
#35: Brady Quinn – Quarterback – 2003-2006
2nd-team All-American (2006), 3rd-team All-American (2005), 3rd in Heisman (2006), 4th in Heisman (2005), Sammy Baugh Trophy (2005), Johnny Unitas Award (2006), Maxwell Award (2006)
2005: 292 completions on 450 attempts for 3,919 yards, 32 TDs, 7 INTs
2006: 289 completions on 467 attempts for 3,426 yards, 37 TDs, 7 INTs
I don’t even know where to begin with Brady Quinn. I think everyone knows about the Heisman finishes, the awards, and the stats. He broke 36 records while at Notre Dame, leading the Irish to a 19-6 record over his last two years with two BCS appearances. The fact that that 2006 team finished with 10 wins was nothing short of a miracle, considering the defense and offensive line. Re-watch the Michigan State and UCLA games if you don’t believe me.
Quinn holds a special place in the memories of Irish fans like me who grew up in the 2000s. He was the first Notre Dame player to finish in the Heisman voting since Reggie Brooks in 1992. Before that 13-year streak, the longest such drought had been five years (1959-1964 and 1938-1943).
Quinn was recognized as the best player in the country with the Maxwell Award his senior year and was a Heisman finalist twice – one of only three Irish players to finish in the top four twice. He left Notre Dame as the best statistical quarterback in its history and brought life to a stagnating program.
Although of course the Irish lost the game in a heartbreaker, re-watch Quinn’s last drive in the 2005 USC game. I think it remains the best drive of his career, capped off by his touchdown run. If it’s not too painful to remember the game, here it is. Just don’t watch the next two minutes.
#34: Walt Patulski – Defensive End – 1969-1971
Unanimous All-American (1971), 9th in Heisman (1971), Lombardi Award (1971), UPI Lineman of the Year (1971)
1971: 74 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 6 pass breakups
Having started every game in his three years, Walt Patulski was one of Ara Parseghian’s most reliable players on the defensive line. He left Notre Dame as the career leader in tackles for loss with 40, as well as the season record with 17.
Paultski delivered a tremendous 1970 season, capped off by a second-half shutout of #1 Texas in the Cotton Bowl. The Irish forced nine fumbles in that game, recovering five of them. Patulski was then named a captain of the 1971 team, which featured yet another top-ten defense in terms of scoring.
Both the UPI’s Lineman of the Year and winner of the Lombardi Award for best lineman or linebacker, Patulski was not lacking in hardware. After graduating, he was selected first overall by the Bills in the 1972 Draft. He is the last Irish player to be the first pick in a draft.
#33: Mike McCoy – Defensive Tackle – 1967-1969
Unanimous All-American (1969), 6th in Heisman (1969), Associated Press Lineman of the Year (1969)
1969: 88 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 7 pass breakups, 1 INT
The rare defensive tackle to garner Heisman votes, Mike McCoy was a two-year starter on the defensive line. It shows how stacked Ara’s defenses were that a talent like McCoy couldn’t crack the starting lineup until his junior year.
Once he did, though, McCoy delivered incredible production. He finished third on the team in tackles in ’68 and second in ’69, collecting 203 for his career. Following his time at Notre Dame, he was drafted second overall by the Packers and played 10 years in the NFL.
In 2010 McCoy was named the recipient of the Bronco Nagurski Legends Award, which recognizes the best defensive players of the last 50 years. So far only eight players have received the award, including fellow Irish alum Alan Page.
#32: Jeff Samardzija – Wide Receiver – 2003-2006
2x 1st-team All-American (2005, 2006), Unanimous All-American (2005)
2005: 77 receptions for 1,249 yards, 15 TDs
2006: 78 receptions for 1,017 yards, 12 TDs
Brady Quinn’s favorite target, Jeff Samardzija seemingly came out of nowhere in 2005, entering the season with just 24 career receptions. His record-breaking junior season helped lead the Irish to its second BCS bowl appearance while setting school records for touchdowns, receptions, and receiving yards.
Samardzija left Notre Dame the record-holder for single-season receptions (78), career receptions (179), single-season receiving yards (1,249), career receiving yards (2,593), single-season receiving touchdowns (15), and career receiving touchdowns (27).
While many of his records have been reached or broken by Michael Floyd and Golden Tate, Samardzija had the best two-year span of any Irish receiver not named Raghib Ismail or Tim Brown. He was a Biletnikoff Award finalist in both 2005 and 2006.
A two-sport athlete in college, “Shark” opted to play baseball and elected not to enter the NFL Draft. He pitches for the Chicago Cubs, and has been in the starting rotation the past two seasons.
Perhaps his most memorable play, relive Samardzija’s game-winning touchdown reception against UCLA in 2006. Link here if video doesn’t work.
#31: Steve Niehaus – Defensive Line – 1972-1975
1974: 95 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 2 pass breakups
1975: 113 tackles, 7 tackles for loss
A three-year starter on the defensive line, Steve Niehaus led the team in tackles in 1975, a defense that featured Ross Browner, Bob Golic, Luther Bradley, Jeff Weston, and Willie Fry. His 113 tackles in 1975 is still a record for Irish defensive linemen (although Trevor Laws’ 112 in 2007 was a lone bright spot for that season). He is also second in that category for a career to Browner.
In fact, the ‘70s were apparently a record-breaking decade for defensive linemen. The top five career tackle leaders on the line all come from that era: Browner, Niehaus, Weston, Mike Calhoun, and Greg Marx. Of the top 11, the only linemen not to play in the ’70s were Laws and Chris Zorich.
Part of the ’73 championship team, Niehaus could only play the first four games before an injury sidelined him for the rest of the season. His next two seasons were remarkable, however, as he totaled more than 200 tackles. His unanimous selection on the All-America team was supplemented with finishing 12th in the Heisman.
Selected second overall in the 1976 NFL Draft by the newly formed Seahawks, Niehaus was the NFC Defensive Rookie of the Year after recording 9.5 sacks. Injuries hampered the rest of his career, however, and he retired after the 1979 season.
31. Steve Niehaus
32. Jeff Samardzija
33. Mike McCoy
34. Walt Patulski
35. Brady Quinn
37. Joe Kurth
38. Elmer Layden
39. Monty Stickles
40. Bob Dove
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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