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Author Archives: Duranko

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

Photo provided by Fighting Irish Media

#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

Photo: Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire

#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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#17 Raghib “Rocket” Ismail: Notre Dame Football’s Top 25 Players

Photo provided by Fighting Irish Media

#17 Raghib “Rocket” Ismail, WR/KR/PR/RB 1988-1990 Notre Dame’s most explosive player ever was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, but was a prep star at Elmer L. Meyers High School in Wilkes-Barre in Northeast Pennsylvania in the fertile Lehigh River Valley. Notre Dame had to fend off Joe Paterno’s “anti-poaching” rules to snag Ismail. When Ismail arrived in South Bend, he immediately dazzled on the practice field and “Raghib” went into atrophy. He became, and ever will remain, the Rocket. 1988:The Sniper Lou Holtz had plans to fully weaponize Rocket Ismail, but Lou strove to let patience do its perfect work ...

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#18 Tom Clements: Notre Dame Football’s Top 25 Players

Tom Clements - Notre Dame QB

#18 Tom Clements, Quarterback, 1972-1974 Born in McKees Rocks, Tom Clements was a multi-sport athlete at Canevin High School in Pittsburgh. Beyond being a prep football phenom, Clements was so adept on the basketball court that Dean Smith recruited him to play point guard for the mighty Tar Heels. If you ever had your ankles broken on a Clements crossover in the Pit at the then Convo, you’d understand Dean Smith’s pursuit. When Tom Clements arrived at Notre Dame, he was part of the last class subject to the strictures of freshman ineligibility. After Ara and Pagna were unable to ...

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#19 Chris Zorich: Notre Dame Football’s Top 25 Players

Photo provided by Fighting Irish Media

#19 Chris Zorich, Nose Tackle, 1988-1990 More Notre Dame fans have driven past Chris Zorich’s High School than that of any other member of the top 25. Zorich played high school football at Chicago Vocational, which abutted the highway as you exited the Dan Ryan, right there where you hit the brakes to get to the toll gate that sent you on to Indiana. Toughness was valued at CVS, as Dick Butkus had prowled those corridors before taking his talents to Champaign-Urbana to star for the Illini. Chris Zorich was not a mega-recruit and was a linebacker-defensive lineman “’tweener.” Barry ...

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#20 Aaron Taylor: Notre Dame Football’s Top 25 Players

Aaron Taylor - Notre Dame OT

#20 Aaron Taylor, Tackle , 1990-1993 Aaron Taylor was born in San Francisco, but his parents sent him to play high school football for the legendary Bob Ladoceur at DeLaSalle in Concord in the East Bay. Taylor was a high profile recruit and once Joe Moore locked on to him, it was a multi-year, albeit occasionally tempestuous tough love-hate relationship. Taylor originally “made his bones” in the Sugar Bowl after the ‘91 season when the Irish shocked haughty Florida 39-28. There in the Superdome Jerome Bettis punched in three TDS against the proud Gator defense, and on two of them ...

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#21 Nick Buoniconti: Notre Dame Football’s Top 25 Players

Nick Buoniconti - Notre Dame

Nick Buoniconti grew up as the son of immigrant Italian bakers in Springfield, MA. As a Catholic he attended Cathedral High School. There was a legend who had walked the corridors of Cathedral, who had starred on its football fields. It was Angelo Bertelli, who found his way from Springfield’s Cathedral to Notre Dame and won the first Heisman Trophy ever for a Notre Dame player.    When Notre Dame offered Buonoconti it was an easy decision. Nick Buonoconti differs from most of the people on this list in two key areas: He played in Notre Dame’s Dark Ages, the interregnum ...

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#22 Ken Macafee: Notre Dame Football’s Top 25 Players

(Photo: Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire)

The seeds of Notre Dame becoming “Tight End University” were planted by Leon Hart in 1946 and then watered and tended by Hart culminating when he reaped the crop and won the Heisman Trophy in 1949. No other tight end has ever won the Heisman. Ever. Following Mutscheller, Stickles, Gmitter, Poskon, Creaney and Casper, and preceding Bavaro, Smith, McBride, Brown, Fasano, Carlson, Rudolph, Eifert, Niklas and, yes, Alize Jones, Ken MacAfee shifted the paradigm and broke records for tight end receiving. MacAfee was big enough when he came from a state championship in Brockton, MA, the home of Rocky Marciano. ...

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#23 Bill “Moose” Fischer: Notre Dame Football’s Top 25 Players

Photo: Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire

Bill Fischer made the short trek from Chicago and played for Hugh Devore’s ’45 team while Leahy and Lujack were in the service, and Leon Hart was making high school history in Turtle Creek, PA. Fischer was one of the few successful returnees when Notre Dame’s team assembled for 1946. No one, EVER, has brought in an infusion of talent like Leahy did in 1946. He brought in incoming freshmen like Leon Hart and players like Lujack, Martin and many more who had been “in training” in the Pacific and European theatres in World War II. Fischer, with Hart, was ...

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#24 Todd Lyght: Notre Dame Football’s Top 25 Players

Todd Lyght was an All-American and National Champion for the Irish before becoming a 1st round NFL Draft pick.(Photo from Notre Dame Fighting Irish Digital Media)

Todd Lyght arrived in 1987, ready to be groomed as the heir apparent to Tim Brown. But his coaches had other plans and announced their intention to move him to cornerback. Initially stunned, Lyght remembered his roots, that he was the son of a Police Captain in hardscrabble Flint. He blended discipline with toughness, took the bit and never looked back. Instead of becoming the “next” Tim Brown he became the “original” Todd Lyght. Todd Lyght may have been Notre Dame’s first “lock down cornerback.” Lyght played more minutes than any other ’87 freshman, and was the most impactful, with ...

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#25 Red Salmon: Notre Dame Football’s Top 25 Players

Photo: Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire

Excellence creates unconventional  challenges. Mere  mortals struggle to comprehend and describe greatness   The rich glorious history of Notre Dame Football make compiling a list of the 25 greatest Fighting Irish players as daunting as counting the  grains of sand on the seashore, the stars on a clear night sky. How does one define “Greatness?”  Justice Potter Stewart, commenting on defining pornography, in Jacobellis Versus Ohio declared: I shall not attempt today further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within the shorthand description, and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so, BUT I KNOW ...

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Is Notre Dame moving to a 4-2-5 defense?

Notre Dame Defense - Drue Tranquill

COLLEGE FOOTBALL’S BRUTAL ORIGINS When Rutgers “lit up” Princeton 6-4 in 1869 in the first football game ever played, the game’s early defensive DNA was established.  It was brutality at the line of scrimmage and ruthless, often sadistic  tackling. The game’s early thuggishness prompted President Teddy Roosevelt, the Roughrider himself,  in 1905, to threaten the presidents of Yale, Harvard, and Princeton, “Da Three U’s” of their era, with abolishing football. THE FORWARD PASS APPEARS Notre Dame stepped in in 1913, on All Saint’s Day no less, and Gus Dorais completed 14 of 17 passes, many of them to Split Norway’s ...

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Notre Dame’s Fiesta Bowl History

Notre Dame Fiesta Bowl History

ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA……… The bowl season was ruled by four bowls: Cotton Bowl Rose Bowl Sugar Bowl Orange Bowl Sure there were other bowls, but they were merely ladies-in-waiting, the handmaidens to the Cotton, Rose, Sugar and Orange. It was in a galaxy far, far away but New Year’s day had a set pattern. The Cotton Bowl started off the day, followed by the Rose Bowl, which often ended with another Big Ten Team succumbing to the Pac 8 or Pac 10 just about the time the sun succumbed to the San Gabriel mountains. Night fell and ...

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Notre Dame – Ohio State Series History

Notre Dame - Ohio State HIstory

Ohio State and Notre Dame have played a mere five times, somewhat perplexing given the schools’ prominence and domicile in contiguous states. Notre Dame’s series with Ohio State ties for shortest with Minnesota of the “Original Big X” (Actually 12). Notre Dame has played Big 10/12/14 newcomers Rutgers and Maryland 5 and 2 times respectively. STOCK UP ON NOTRE DAME FIESTA BOWL GEAR! Notre Dame Fighting Irish 2016 Fiesta Bowl Bound Snap Long Sleeve T-Shirt – Navy $32.99 But the series did open with a bang. It was a strange time for Notre Dame, during the interregnum between Rockne and ...

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