Feb 9, 2014, 12:52 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.
After a National Signing Day without the drama fans might have become accustomed to, I’m counting this as a good week for Notre Dame football. At one point, all these great players on this list were hopeful recruits looking to make an impact for the Irish. I would guess their Notre Dame careers exceeded their greatest expectations.
Today we have our first Heisman Trophy winner in John Huarte and the program’s greatest tackler in Bob Crable. After this we’re down to the last three entries.
#20: Bob Crable – Linebacker – 1978-1981
2x Consensus All-American (1980, 1981), 3rd-team All-American (1979)
1979: 187 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, INT, 3 pass breakups, 2 fumble recoveries, 3 blocks
1980: 154 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 3 pass breakups, 2 fumble recoveries
1981: 167 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 2 INTs, 3 pass breakups, 2 fumble recoveries
The most prolific tackler in Notre Dame history, Bob Crable’s sheer numbers are staggering. As a sophomore, he shattered the school record with 187 tackles, which still stands today. In fact, after 30 years Crable is still the record holder for single-season tackles (187), career tackles (521), and tackles in a game (26, tied with Bob Golic). He made at least 19 tackles in a game six times in his career. Three of the top four season totals belong to Crable. His stature in the Notre Dame record book translates to the entire NCAA, as well. Twenty-six tackles in a game is tied for the FBS record.
I could go on and on, and Crable’s accolades back up the numbers. After securing a third-team spot on All-American lists as a sophomore, he was a near-unanimous selection in both 1980 and ’81.
The eighth two-time captain in Irish history, Crable was a team leader under both Devine and Faust. He was drafted by the Jets in the first round of the 1982 NFL Draft and played as a pro for six seasons before injuries cut short his career.
One of Crable’s most memorable plays was jumping over the Michigan snapper to block a Wolverine field goal and preserve the 12-10 victory in 1979. Here’s the play, intercut with Crable discussing the play.
And here’s another interview with Crable from 125 Years of Notre Dame Football in which he talks about what makes Notre Dame significant.
#19: Marchy Schwartz – Halfback – 1929-1931
2x Consensus All-American (1930, 1931), Unanimous All-American (1931), 2x National Champion (1929, 1930)
1930: 124 carries for 927 yards, 9 TDs
1931: 146 carries for 692 yards, 5 TDs
Although the 1924 backfield might be the most famous among Notre Dame teams, the backs for Rockne’s last championship team were no slouches either. With Marty Brill, Larry Mullins, Frank Carideo, and Marchy Schwartz, the 1930 team went 10-0, capped off by a 27-0 victory over USC in Los Angeles.
Leading that team in both rushing and passing, Schwartz was Notre Dame’s best running back since George Gipp, helping the Irish to two championships and twice named a consensus All-American.
His 1929 season remains one of the best in the long history of Irish football. His 7.5 yards per carry stands only behind Gipp (8.1) and Reggie Brooks (8) for best in a season. His 927 rushing yards would stand unbroken until Al Hunter’s 1976 season, surviving nearly 50 years. Schwartz was also the team’s punter, and he still holds the record for most punts in a game with 15.
More than 80 years after his Notre Dame career, Schwartz remains one of only two Notre Dame halfbacks to be two-time consensus All-Americans, along with Heisman winner John Lattner. And Schwartz had the misfortune of playing before the Heisman Trophy started. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1974.
#18: Aaron Taylor – Offensive Tackle / Guard – 1990-1993
2x Consensus All-American (1992, 1993), Unanimous All-American (1993), Lombardi Award (1993), Jim Parker Award (1993)
In a game that glorifies play-making quarterbacks and linebackers piling up tackles, it’s often easy to overlook linemen. There are so few stats to measure them by and no opportunities to be at the center of the play. And so it is a reflection of tremendous talent when an interior lineman is widely recognized for his greatness. Aaron Taylor was one such player.
The face of the 1993 team, Taylor captained that squad to an 11-1 finish while ending up No. 2 in the final polls behind Florida State, whom the Irish beat. Taylor spent that season at offensive tackle after playing guard his first three years.
A three-year starter, Taylor racked up award after award in his Notre Dame career, including the Lombardi and Jim Parker Awards for best lineman in the nation. He was a consensus All-American in 1992 before making the team unanimously in ’93.
Taylor was the most dominant offensive lineman the Irish had seen since George Connor, and he was drafted in the first round of the 1994 NFL Draft. Although injuries cut his career short, he did win Super Bowl XXXI with the Packers in 1997.
#17: Emil Sitko – Fullback/Halfback – 1946-1949
2x Consensus All-American (1948, 1949), Unanimous All-American (1949), 8th in Heisman, Walter Camp Memorial Trophy (1949), 3x National Champion (1946, 1947, 1949)
1948: 129 carries for 742 yards, 7 receptions for 70 yards, 1 kick return for 76 yards, 9 total TDs
1949: 120 carries for 712 yards, 2 receptions for 15 yards, 9 total TDs
Dubbed by Frank Leahy the fastest back he ever coached, Emil Sitko yet always seemed to be overshadowed by his teammates. Whether it was Johnny Lujack or Leon Hart, I think there was always someone between Sitko and superstardom, despite his outstanding career.
Starting all four years, the Irish had a record of 36-0-2 with him in the lineup, a mark equaled only by teammate Jim Martin. They are also, I believe, the only players in Notre Dame history to start on three national championship teams, in addition to Ziggy Czarobski.
Although he finished behind Hart (the winner) and quarterback Bob Williams for the Heisman, Sitko did win the Walter Camp Memorial Trophy for best back in the country, as well as unanimous All-American honors.
Sitko graduated from Notre Dame at the age of 27, his education delayed by service in World War II. When he arrived on campus, he became an immediate starter and led the team in rushing four years in a row. This is a hard stat to double check, but I think he is the only player in Irish history to accomplish this.
Picked 10th overall in the 1950 NFL Draft, Sitko played three years as a pro before retiring. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1984.
#16: John Huarte – Quarterback – 1962-1964
Consensus All-American (1964), Heisman Trophy (1964), UPI Back of the Year (1964), UPI Player of the Year (1964)
1964: 114 completions on 205 attempts for 2,062 yards, 19 total TDs, 11 INTs
John Huarte may have had the strangest career of any Irish player in history. He won the Heisman Trophy before earning a varsity monogram, throwing 50 passes in his career up until his final season. He was the third stringer on a 1963 team that went 2-7.
But with new head coach Ara Parseghian and teammate Jack Snow, Huarte led the Irish to their best season in a decade, shattering 12 school records along the way. He still holds the record for yards per attempt in a season (10.06), yards per completion in a game (27.4 vs. Navy), and yards per completion in a season (18.09). He also remains near the top of the record books in season efficiency rating, career efficiency rating, and passing touchdowns in a season.
For having started only one season, Huarte’s mark on the university is unfathomable. He was the key piece (besides Ara) in turning a 2-7 team into a 9-1 national title contender. He announced his presence with a bang, throwing for 270 yards in his first career start against Wisconsin. Touchdown passes to Snow for 61 and 42 yards helped set up a 31-7 victory. Notre Dame would then beat its next five opponents by at least three scores. A 20-17 loss to USC at the end of the season would keep Huarte from adding a championship trophy to his collection.
Picked in the second round of the NFL Draft, Huarte went on to play eight seasons in the AFL and NFL. He was inducted in the College Football Hall of Fame in 2005.
Here are some highlights of Notre Dame’s 40-0 victory over Navy in 1964, when Huarte outplayed reigning Heisman Trophy winner Roger Staubach.
16. John Huarte
17. Emil Sitko
18. Aaron Taylor
19. Marchy Schwartz
20. Bob Crable
22. Bill Fischer
23. Michael Stonebreaker
24. Jim Lynch
25. Ed Beinor
27. Luther Bradley
28. Bob Williams
29. Bob Golic
30. Ralph Guglielmi
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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