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Author Archives: Duranko

#1 George Gipp: Notre Dame Football’s Top 25 Players

George Gipp, HB, QB, P, DB, KR PR, 1917-1920 Unique – adj. being the only one of its kind; unlike anything else.  It is an absolute, binary term. Something is either “unique” or it is not. There is no “somewhat unique.” Gifted – adj. having great special talent or ability. The social media has accelerated the reduction to an electronic Tower of Babel-level absurdity of freedom of speech, and has completed the devaluation of our linguistic currency. But we are about to venture back, when talk was less cheap, to the gold standard of “unique” and “gifted.’  If you prefer optics to ...

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#2 Johnny Lujack: Notre Dame Football’s Top 25 Players

#2 Johnny Lujack, QB/DB 1942-1943, 1946-1947 Connelsville’s All-American Boy Johnny Lujack was born in Connellsville on January 3, 1925. He was born under a good sign as that was just 3 days after Rock and the Four Horsemen had defeated Pop Warner, Ernie Nevers and the Stanford Indians in the Rose Bowl. Lujack checked every box growing up in Connellsville. He was Connellsville’s favorite son as the community, sensing the gathering storm first, then reeling from Pearl Harbor, wanted him to accept an appointment from West Point. He excelled in the classroom and was the Valedictorian of his graduating class ...

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#3 Leon Hart: Notre Dame Football’s Top 25 Players

#3 Leon Hart, TE/DE 1946-1949 Leon Hart was the strapping son of a Westinghouse Crane operator who lived in Pittsburgh’s Southeast suburb of Turtle Creek.  He was one of Notre Dame’s first “middle class”  recruits. A Multi-Sport Star; A Prized Recruit There was nothing Hart could not do, on the classroom or on any field of athletic endeavor.  He was equally as adept at baseball and basketball as he was in football. But Notre Dame drew a bead on him for football, and Leahy, fresh back from the Navy in the Pacific Theatre of operations,  assigned assistant coach Edwin “Moose” Krause ...

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#4 The Four Horsemen: Notre Dame Football’s Top 25 Players

#4 -Four Horsemen, Backs. 1921-1924 Harry Stuhldreher, Don Miller, Elmer Layden, Sleepy Jim Crowley The Four Horsemen are a single entity.  As a Catholic University, Notre Dame and its true sons and daughters are comfortable with the Doctrine of the Trinity: One God, Three Manifestations-Father, Son and Spirit (Comforter/Paraclete)  It’s all there in christ’s Final Discourse, John Chapters 14-16 The Divine Unity and Commonality transcend the individual differences.  And so it is with the Four Horsemen. Notre Dame’s preeminence in the history of college football is no accident. But it has been accelerated by the confluence of great coaching, great players ...

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#5 Angelo Bertelli: Notre Dame Football’s Top 25 Players

Angelo Bertelli - 1943 Heisman Trophy Winner

#5 Angelo Bertelli, QB, 1940-1943 Angello Bertelli was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, USA to Italian immigrant parents.  A generation later, also in Springfield, Nick Buoniconti, #21 on our list of all-time Notre Dame greats, was born to Italian immigrant parents. Bertelli was a multi-sport star at Springfield’s Cathedral High, the same school which Buoniconti used as a springboard to Notre Dame.  They are the only two members of our top #25 who attended the same high school. Angelo Bertelli, The Multi-Sport Star Eschewing Italy’s national sport, soccer, Bertelli immediately shone at Cathedral  on grass (fooball) on wooden planks (basketball) and ...

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#6 Ross Browner: Notre Dame Football’s Top 25 Players

Ross Browner - Notre Dame DE

#6 Ross Browner, DE, 1973, 1975-1977 Ross Browner was a high school phenom at Western Reserve High School in talent-rich Warren, Ohio. ROSS BROWNER’S PROPHET-GREG BLACHE There were two great prep defensive linemen in 1972 in Ohio.  One was Gary Jeter of Cathedral Latin in Cleveland. Browner was the other.  Jeter looked like Adonis in high school and passed the eye test as clearly as anybody since George Connnor.  Greg Blache confirmed that the Irish were high on Jeter, but that he had a tendency to take a play or two off.  Blache indicated that the staff was higher of ...

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#7 Johnny Lattner: Notre Dame Football’s Top 25 Players

John Lattner - 1953 Heisman Trophy Winner

#7 Johnny Lattner, HB/DB 1950-1953 As Frank Leahy was looking to replenish the glistening treasure of the ’46 recruiting class that was finally depleting in 1949, he looked to the wealth in the Chicago Catholic League. Leahy ventured to Oak Park, a near west suburb of Chicago to Fenwick High and John Lattner.  Fenwick was run by the Dominicans and was named after  a Bishop Fenwick from Cincinnati.  Fenwick became one of the lead tributaries of the Chicago Catholic League feeder system for Notre Dame along with Gordon, Brother Rice, St. Rita’s, DeLaSalle  and Mt. Carmel. While Leahy was running and ...

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#8 Tim Brown: Notre Dame Football’s Top 25 Players

Tim Brown - Notre Dame Great Receiver

#8 Tim Brown, WR/RB/KR/PR, 1984-1987 Tim Brown may have been unique in that he might have been influenced by Notre Dame’s Bowl Appearances, which began after the ’69 season, with the ’70 Cotton Bowl. When Notre Dame broke the 45 year self-imposed boycott of the bowls, it did so in Dallas.  In the ’70 ,’71. ’78 and ’79 Cotton Bowls, when the Irish went a respectable 3-1, the Irish and their accompanying throng were all over Dallas and the Cotton Bowl located on its Fairgrounds.  A young Tim Brown may have noticed.  And when Gerry Faust’s staff came a-courtin’, Tim Brown ...

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#9 Paul Hornung: Notre Dame Football’s Top 25 Players

(Original Photo provided by Notre Dame Media Relations)

#9 Paul Hornung, QB 1953-1956 Paul Hornung was a legendary schoolboy athlete at Flaget High in Louisville.  Hornung eventually became a member of the High School Hall of Fame. Hornung’s Recruitment: Frank Leahy vs. Bear Bryant Frank Leahy was in his twilight when Hornung’s recruitment began.  Hornung, along with Flaget High teammate Sherrill Sipes,   came up on a recruiting visit for the 1952 USC game.  But when the two returned home, the continued aggressive recruiting of the University of Kentucky, just down the road, accelerated.  The Wildcats  had an aggressive young coach who wanted to “build a fence around Louisville.”  ...

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#11 Luther Bradley: Notre Dame Football’s Top 25 Players

Notre Dame CB - Luther Bradly

#11 Luther Bradley, DB 1973, 1975-1977 Luther Bradley was recruited from Muncie to join the Irish in 1973. Muncie had not been known for football players; it was more famous for Ball Home Canning Jars (whence Ball State University) and the basketball prowess of the Muncie Central Bearcats who had won five Hoosier Hysteria state championships by the time Bradley graduated from Muncie Northside. Luther Bradley is revered in South Bend as he earned his starting spot on the 1973 defense a few days before fellow frosh Ross Browner earned his starting spot. Luther arrived just as Notre Dame was ...

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#12 Jim Lynch: Notre Dame Football’s Top 25 Players

Jim Lynch - Notre Dame LB

#12 Jim Lynch, Linebacker, 1964-1966 Jim Lynch was recruited from Lima Central Catholic as part of the ever loyal Hugh Devore’s parting gift to Notre Dame: the 1963 freshman class, which was Notre Dame’s best since Leahy’s class of 1946. It included Alan Page, Larry Conjar, Don Gmitter, George Goeddeke, Kevin Hardy, Tom Regner, John Horney, Paul Seiler and many more who formed the nucleus of Ara’s first team and the 1966 National Champoinship Team. Ara took advantage of the rule change from limited substitution to unlimited substitution immediately in the spring of 1964 and Defensive Coordinator had his Middle ...

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#13 Alan Page: Notre Dame Football’s Top 25 Players

#13 Alan Page, Defensive End, 1964-1966 Alan Page was a High School All-America at Canton Central Catholic when he was recruited by Hugh Devore to come to Notre Dame in 1963. Page was industrious in the high school classroom as well as on the gridiron. Alan Page was also industrious with his part-time job. Page also worked on a construction team that erected the Pro Football Hall of Fame building in Canton. It is some kind of irony that while Page helped lay the groundwork for the Hall, he would later make a triumphant return and be enshrined in that ...

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#14 Frank Carideo: Notre Dame Football’s Top 25 Players

#14 Frank Carideo, quarterback 1928-1930 A native of Mount Vernon, New York; Frank Carideo was compact at 5’7” 175 pounds. While many of Notre Dame’s early legends were multi-sport athletes, Carideo was nearly monomaniacal about football. As a prep star, he studied coffin corner punting under New York City Attorney and Princeton grad Leroy Mills. Rock put Carideo on the field for the first time in 1928. And Carideo played against Army in the “win one for the Gipper” classic. A One Man Band on Special Teams While we list Carideo as a quarterback, he was probably the most skilled ...

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#15 Creighton Miller: Notre Dame Football’s Top 25 Players

#15 Creighton Miller, Halfback 1941-1943 Creighton Miller was the nephew of Don Miller, one of the Four Horsemen, and perhaps the first legacy player at Notre Dame. Miller was a big back for his era, as he was 6’0” 195 pounds. Miller was a confident guy and he liked golf. Each Spring he played golf at Notre Dame and skipped Leahy’s mildly intense spring practices. Now none of us can penetrate the mind and soul of Frank Leahy, but imagine him watching his charges on the practice field, sweating through another grueling spring session, while envisioning Creighton Miller selecting a ...

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#16 Jaylon Smith: Notre Dame Football’s Top 25 Players

#16 Jaylon Smith, Linebacker, 2013-2015 Notre Dame’s most athletic linebacker of all time also ranks, along with Luther Bradley, as one of the greatest natives of Indiana to ever don the Blue and Gold. Born and raised in the Summit City of Fort Wayne, Smith was a multi-sport athlete at Bishop Luers who won the High School Butkus Award as a senior. He was scheduled to be brought along gradually in 2013, backing up Danny Spond at “Dog” OLB in Bob Diaco’s 3-4. But Spond retired from football due to concussions and Diaco removed Smith from the incubator. He quickly ...

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