The fortcoming departure of Gunner Kiel triggers synapses of quarterbacks who left Notre Dame in the past. It is a coat of many colors…..
Once upon a time, most college coaches recruited many quarterbacks. In the days before passing offenses “arrived” the run was emphasized and the quarterback was, very often, the cliched “Best athlete on the team.” College coaches would routinely overrecruit quarterbacks and then move the least quarterbackesque to other positions. Of course there have been some extraordinary successes, nationally, of quarterbacks who transferred, Troy Aikman from Oklahoma to UCLA, Jeff George from Purdue to Illinois, and Joe Flacco from Pitt to Delaware.
Over the years, Notre Dame has had more quarterbacks move to other positions (Tom Schoen, John Pergine) and other sports (the great Phil Wittliff, hockey player, included) than to play quarterback for other schools.
But there were some humdingers of quarterback transfers.
FROM CARTIER TO IWO JIMA: ANGELO BERTELLI-THE “TRANSFER” OF ALL TRANSFERS.
Nobody did it better. In the middle of his Heisman winning season of ’43, after just six games, Bertelli left ND and transferred to Quantico, then Camp Lejeune, then later Guam and Iwo Jima where he fought with as much distinction for the fighting Marines as he had for the Fighting Irish. Bertelli had enlisted with the marines before his senior year, and when they contacted him in the Fall of ’43, he apparently went over to Sacred Heart Church and read the arch over the East door. You know, the one that says “God, Country, Notre Dame.” Angelo knew “Country” outranked “Notre Dame” and off he went.
No other school has ever had this happen.
There are some interesting tales regarding quarterbacks who’ve transferred from Notre Dame. Quite a few have examined what appeared to be a quarterback logjam in South Bend and have changed venues with some significant success.
The Ragin’ Cajun
This NOLA QB candidate came in with the great recruiting class of ’73. Roy was one of the players dismissed along with Browner, Fry, Bradley, Hunter and Dan Knott in the “dormitory incident” of the summer of 1974. Unlike the other five, Roy never returned to Notre Dame. Instead he headed to Lafayette to join the Ragin’ Cajuns, where he was an all Southland conference first team qb in ’76 and passed for 14 TDS and over 1800 yards in 1976.
Grooms was a highly-pursued prospect who came from Washington Court House, Ohio, the same program that produced Art Schlichter. Schlichter was something of an anomaly. After he struggled under Woody Hayes in ’78 (the year that ended with Woody punching a Clemson player in a Bowl game, leading to his termination) Schlichter blossomed in ’79 under Earle Bruce and was arguably the best qb in the country as a sophomore.
It was later that Schlichter’s personal travail and degenerate gambling began to undermine his considerable football skill. Grooms was thought to be as good, and looked good in the ’81 Spring practice. However, Blair Kiel held the job, and Grooms transferred to Miami of Ohio. Interestingly, Grooms later returned to Notre Dame and graduated.
A Green Wave
Recruited by Devine a year after Blair Kiel and Scott Grooms, Karcher was from the Pittsburgh Shaler district. Because of Lujack, Clements and Montana, the Irish were predisposed to Western Pennsylvania quarterbacks and Karcher had been a stud at Shaler. He left to play quarterback at Tulane with some success: he started in ’84 and ’85 and threw for over 3300 yards and 17 TDs for the Green Wave. Karcher later had a four game cup of coffee with the Denver Broncos in the NFL.
10 YEAR NFL Player
A hot-shot recruit from Wheaton, thought to be the best prospect there since Red Grange went on to become the Galloping Ghost of the Illini. He came to campus a year after Tony Rice, and Lou chose Rice to use his option magic to start for the Irish. Graham moved on to Ohio State and was the Buckeye starter in 1991. Interestingly, Graham had NFL size and a big arm, and he collected paychecks in the NFL with the Giants, Washington, Pitsburgh and Arizona for 10 years. Carrying a clipboard can be lucrative! He’s probably pension-eligible.
Jake the Snake
A well-recruited prospect from Berwick, Jake signed with with the Irish in 1989, the same year as the Goshen motion, Rick Mirer. Mirer bested Kelchner, who went on to play at West Virginia. Behind Jake Plummer of Arizona State, Kelchner was probably the second most renowned “Jake the Snake” in college football in that era. He quarterbacked an unbeaten West Virginia team in 1993. Kelchner passed for over 2500 yards and 18 TDS in ’92 and ’93. In ’93 Kelchner led the Mountaineers to victories over Missouri, Va Tech and Miami (FL) before they were demolished by Florida in the Sugar Bowl, 41-7. The Irish had burned no bridges in Berwick and signed Ron Powlus for the 1993 frosh class.
Kustok was interesting, as his transfer from Notre Dame was presaged by a controversial transfer in high school. As a callow freshman, Kustok led Lincoln Way West to a Sica championship. But Zak became disenchanted and the family moved to Orland Park, with Zak transferring to Sandburg High, where he was heavily pursued as a quarterback prospect. He signed with Notre Dame in 1997, served on the scout team in ’97, then found himself down on the depth chart in the Spring of 1998 behind Arnaz Battle and Jarious Jackson. Kustok was no slouch in the classroom, and had a 3.5 during his academic career at Notre Dame. He decided to transfer, and was recruited by Gary Barnett to play for Northwestern just as Barnett was leaving to coach Colorado. Kustok quarterbacked with distinction for Northwestern. Kustok was a howling success at Northwestern, playing as soon as he became eligible, and then starting in 2000 and 2001, when he was named the Wildcats’ Most Valuable Player. The Wildcats were 12-11 the two years he started, and, in the pre-Pat Fitzgerald era, that was outstanding for Northwestern. Kustok passed for over 500 completions for over 5800 yards and 42 touchdowns.
Matt had quarterbacked Bergen Catholic and caught the Irish eye, signing in 2000 and being named starter by Davie. In 2001, Lovecchio started the first two games, both of which were losses, and he was demoted by Davie who wanted to throw Carlyle Holiday under the bus in an initial start in College Station against the Aggies. A&M 24-Notre Dame 3. In the Spring, Lovecchio and his stage dad sought assurances from new coach Willingham that Matt would be the starter. The taciturn Willingham demurred.
Lovecchio transferred to IU and started for the Hoosiers in 2002 and 2003. He completed over 300 passes for over 3600 yards. The Hoosiers, under former ND star Gerry Dinardo, won only 4 games in those 2 season. However in a late recount courtesy of Joe Paterno’s failure to supervise Jerry Sandusky, two of the losses to Penn State have been vacated. So the Hoosier football program has that going for it.
Demetrius Jones was a wunderkind coming out of Morgan Park, a dual threat. He came in a year before Clausen, with Frazer. While most thought that Clausen was pre-annointed by the previous coach, Demetrius Jones was named the starter for the ’07 game against Georgia Tech. There have been many examples of cowardice by a general. There is Jubilation T. Cornpone (q.v.), from Al Capp’s “L’il Abner.” There is General McLellan, who exasperated Lincoln during the Virginia campaign before being replaced by Abe. Then there is the gameplan from the schematic genius for the ’07 Georgia Tech game. Jones was fed to the stings of the Yellow Jacket’s blitz package, in a game the Irish lost 33-3.
The game was not nearly so close as the final score indicated. Schematic advantage concluded that only a sheer defensive genius could blunt his “brilliant” game plan, and then demoted Jones and went in hot pursuit of Jon, “Blitz package” Tenuta. Jones transferred to Cincinnati to play for Brian Kelly and got some time at linebacker. Tenuta? Don’t Ask!
The Uconn Huskies BCS quarterback
A highly rated quarterback from Eastern Pennsylvania (Mechanicsburg) Frazer signed with the Irish in February 2006. He was injured for the 2006 season and was informed that he was not a competitor for the quarterback job thereafter, prompting his transfer to UCONN.
Zach had considerable success at UConn, starting in 19 gajmes, throwing for over 3000 yards and 17 touchdowns and led the Huskies to a BCS bowl game against Oklahoma. He threw for over 200 yards against the Sooners in that Fiesta Bowl
A Rivals five star from California, he was recruited by ol’ schematic advantage to serve as the lady-in-waiting for Clausen. Crist had injury issues but started at QB in both the ’10 and ’11 seasons for Brian Kelly’s Irish. Dayne was quickly replaced by Rees in the ’11 season and became the Joan of Arc of the Kelly bashers on a increasingly odiferous bevy of internet sites. Crist, who was a very nice young man who fit in well at Notre Dame, violated a rule. The rule is “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me” and left, despite other options to pursue rock chalk and Jayhawks in Lawrence. Crist quarterbacked Kansas to a stirring victory over the mighty South Dakota State Jackrabbits, 31-17.
The next win by Kansas was by the basketball team. Crist completed 103 of 216 passes for 1300 yards and four touchdown passes and nine interceptions. Rock chalk, Jayhawk, KU. Kelly still awaits the first apology letter from the chimpanzees who vilified him for replacing Crist with Rees in 2011. Players like Henry, Karcher, Kelchner, Graham, Kustok and Frazer have had some success and fun, albeit not fame, playing quarterback after they left Notre Dame.
May Gunner Kiel find the same! Good luck, Son!