Feb 16, 2014, 11:14 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.
Down to the last 15 players in ND Rank, I’m really enjoying learning more about the very best of what Notre Dame football has delivered over the years. From guys I’ve already known a lot about like Terry Hanratty to less-heralded stars like Frank Carideo, it’s great going through the archives.
There are only 10 players left after this, and they’re pretty obvious. How would you rank the remaining players? It’s a pretty tough challenge to pick among the best. While you think about that, here’s #11-15:
#15: Terry Hanratty – Quarterback – 1966-1968
Consensus All-American (1968), 3rd-team All-American (1966), 3rd in Heisman (1968), 6th in Heisman (1966), 9th in Heisman (1967), Sammy Baugh Trophy (1967), National Champion (1966)
1966: 78 completions on 147 attempts for 1,247 yards, 13 total TDs, 10 INTs
1967: 110 completions on 206 attempts for 1,439 yards, 16 total TDs, 15 INTs
1968: 116 completions on 197 attempts for 1,466 yards, 14 total TDs, 9 INTs
Sure, the 1966 team was known for its defense, one of the best in Irish history, but so much of the success was dependent on sophomore Terry Hanratty, who played his first minutes that season. The quarterback didn’t disappoint Coach Parseghian, winning the national championship in 1966 and finishing in the top 10 of the Heisman voting each of his three years as a starter. He and Angelo Bertelli are the only two Notre Dame players to place in the award three times.
When he graduated, Hanratty was atop the history books in career attempts, attempts per game in a season (unbroken until 2004), attempts per game in a career (unbroken until 1997), completions in a season, completions in a career, completions per game in a season (unbroken until 2005), completions per game in a career (unbroken until 1997), completion percentage in a season, career completion percentage, career passing yards, yards per game in a season (unbroken until 1999), and yards per game in a career (unbroken until 1997). He still holds the record for pass attempts in a game with 63. Basically he was pretty good.
In addition to his Heisman finishes and records, Hanratty won the Sammy Baugh Trophy for best college passer in his junior season – statistically his worst. His senior year he was third in Heisman voting despite missing the final three games of the season. The Irish finished in the top five in each of his three years and he ended his career with a 21-4-1 record as a starter.
I posted this video for Jim Seymour, but it’s worth another look. Hanratty to Seymour is one of those famous duos in Notre Dame history, and here it is in full swing against Purdue – the pair’s very first game. Link here if video doesn’t work.
#14: Chris Zorich – Defensive Tackle – 1988-1990
3x 1st-team All-American (1988, 1989, 1990), 2x Consensus All-American (1989, 1990), Unanimous All-American (1990), Lombardi Award (1990), UPI Lineman of the Year (1989), Touchdown Club Lineman of the Year (1989), National Champion (1988)
1988: 70 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 3 fumble recoveries, 3 pass breakups
1989: 92 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 forced fumble, 2 pass breakups
1990: 57 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 1 fumble recovery, 2 forced fumbles, 1 pass breakup
In all of Notre Dame history, there are only five three-time All-Americans: Jim Seymour, Luther Bradley, Ken MacAfee, Leon Hart, and Chris Zorich. Zorich’s first such honor was in 1988, playing nose tackle for the national championship team and finished third on the team in tackles. That year he was only selected as a first-teamer by the Newspaper Enterprise Association, but it was just the beginning for Zorich.
In 1989 he followed his breakout year with an even better turn, finishing with 92 tackles and three tackles, earning consensus honors. He capped off his Notre Dame career as one of three Irish unanimous All-Americans in 1990.
Zorich’s origins are well known among Irish fans. Raised in a one-bedroom apartment by his mother, he started playing football without her permission because she was afraid of him getting hurt. Dedicating his life to football, Zorich’s passion, skill, and life story made him one of the most beloved players Notre Dame has seen.
His career ended in a heartbreaking loss to Colorado in the 1991 Orange Bowl, when Raghib Ismail’s touchdown return was called back with a clipping call. Zorich played one of the best games of his career and was named defensive MVP for the game.
After Notre Dame, Zorich was drafted in the second round of the NFL Draft by the Bears, and he was a Pro Bowler in 1993. He also graduated from Notre Dame Law School in 2002.
#13: Ken MacAfee – Tight End – 1974-1977
3x 1st-team All-American (1975, 1976, 1977), 2x Consensus All-American (1976, 1977), Unanimous All-American (1977), 3rd in Heisman (1977), Walter Camp Award (1977), National Champion (1977)
1975: 26 receptions for 333 yards, 5 TDs
1976: 34 receptions for 483 yards, 3 TDs
1977: 54 receptions for 797 yards, 6 TDs
Although several of his tight end records have been broken by Tyler Eifert, Ken MacAfee’s numbers were absurd when you consider the time period. With much less passing than in today’s game, MacAfee still managed to haul in 128 receptions in his career for 1,759 yards and 15 touchdowns. The touchdown mark is especially impressive – Eifert is second among tight ends with 11, and the next highest has eight.
MacAfee led the team in receptions for three straight years, earning first-team All-American honors each of those seasons. His senior campaign was so good he finished third in the Heisman and won the Walter Camp Award for best player in the country. To add to the accolades, he was also an Academic All-American in ’77.
With the Walter Camp Award, MacAfee became the first lineman to win the honor, which began in 1967. He was also the highest-finishing tight end in the Heisman since Howard Twilley got second in 1965. No tight end has finished that high since MacAfee.
Now an oral surgeon, MacAfee received a degree from the University of Pennsylvania’s dental school after the NFL.
Here’s a video of MacAfee in action in the famous 1977 green jersey game against USC – a 49-19 victory.
#12: Frank Carideo – Quarterback – 1928-1930
2x Unanimous All-American (1929, 1930), 2x National Champion (1929, 1930)
I have a feeling that if the Heisman were around a few years earlier that a lot more Irish fans would be familiar with Frank Carideo. Really all they need to know is that he is the only quarterback in Notre Dame history with more than a few starts to have an undefeated and untied record – a perfect 19-0.
Carideo was Rockne’s last quarterback, leading the team to two consecutive national championships in 1929 and ‘30. He and Johnny Lujack are the only quarterbacks to win multiple titles at Notre Dame.
He would often call plays, winning every contest even when Rockne missed several games due to illness. As huge underdogs to USC in the final game of 1930, the Irish won 27-0, which saw Carideo calling a play that involved him receiving a touchdown pass from halfback Marchy Schwartz.
And because this was 85 years ago, the 5’7 quarterback also punted, returned punts and kicks, and played stellar defense. He ranks second all-time in single-season interception return yards with 151 and amazingly still holds the record for career punt return yards with 947.
As a punter he was known for pinning teams deep. Against Army in 1929, he downed the ball six times inside the three-yard line. Carideo was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1954.
#11: George Connor – Tackle – 1946-1947
2x Consensus All-American (1946, 1947), Outland Trophy (1946), 2x National Champion (1946, 1947)
Widely considered the best lineman in Notre Dame history, George Connor was hailed by Grantland Rice as “the closest thing to a Greek God since Apollo.” Connor started his career at Holy Cross, where he was a first-team All-American as a freshman.
After serving three years in the Navy, Connor enrolled at Notre Dame and turned out a dominating two seasons at tackle in which the Irish won back-to-back national championships. Following his junior campaign, he became the first recipient of the Outland Trophy, given to the best interior lineman in college football.
Weighing just three pounds at birth, it was a miracle that Connor survived infancy, let alone became an all-time great athlete. As a freshman in high school, he was 5-4 and 130 pounds. By high school graduation, he was 6-1, 215 pounds.
Connor was drafted fifth overall in the NFL Draft and played for the Chicago Bears. He was the highest-paid lineman ever at the time, and played both ways for Chicago. He set the prototype for the modern linebacker when George Halas moved him off the defensive line in 1949.
In eight seasons with the Bears, Connor was selected to four Pro Bowls and four All-Pro teams. He is one of five Irish players to be inducted in both the College Football and Pro Football Halls of Fame.
11. George Connor
12. Frank Carideo
13. Ken MacAfee
14. Chris Zorich
15. Terry Hanratty
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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