Best of the 2000′s – #3 Jeff Faine

Jeff Faine was the last truly dominant offensive lineman to suit up for the Irish. (Photo - Icon SMI)

After a little bit of a hiatus we get back to our countdown of the top 11 players to play for the Fighting Irish over the last 11 years.  Checking in at #3 is the last truly dominant offensive lineman to play for Notre Dame in the last decade – Jeff Faine.

Jeff Faine Notre Dame career summary

Faine came to Notre Dame as a heralded recruit out of Florida after earning USA Today First Team All American honors after his senior season at Seminole High School.  Despite the accolades Faine red-shirted his freshman season at Notre Dame as he learned behind then starting center John Merandi.  By his sophomore season though, Merandi had graduated and Faine stepped into his starting role – a position he would not let go of until he moved on to the NFL.

Over the course of the next three seasons, Faine started every game at center for the Irish anchoring the Notre Dame offensive line for three seasons.  As a sophomore, Faine was part of an offensive line that paved the way for a 380 yard rushing effort including four rushing touchdowns against Boston College.  For the season, Notre Dame ranked 14th in the nation in rushing despite not having a single running back top 700 yards on the season.

As a junior, Faine again led the Irsih offensive line although the offense struggled in Bob Davie’s final season at Notre Dame.  Despite an ineffective passing game, the Irish ranked 30th nationally running the football despite quarterback Carlyle Holiday being the leading rusher.

In 2002, the Notre Dame offense again struggled at times, but Faine anchored a line that paved the way for Ryan Grant’s 1,000 yard season.  Against Air Force the Irish ground attack racked up 335 yards and added another 249 yards against Stanford.  Faine was the standout of the Irish line in 2002 earning 2nd team All American honors from the AP and first team honors from both ESPN and Sporting News.

Faine had a 5th year of eligibility remaining in 2003, but he was projected as a first round pick and decided against coming back for a final season.

Why Jeff Faine is on the countdown

Whenever there is a new offensive line recruit that comes along and is described as nasty or mean they are immediately compared to Faine and that’s because Faine was head and shoulders above the other offensive linemen to pass through Notre Dame over the last 11 years.  There was really only one other lineman we even considered on this list and that was Ryan Harris.  There’s been a few solid linemen but Faine was the only one to become a first round draft pick.  In fact, Faine was only one of two players in the last 11 years to be selected in the first round regardless of position – the other being Brady Quinn.

Some may think that Faine is ranked a bit too high on this list, but unlike some other positions where there have been multiple great players to pass through Notre Dame over the last 11 years, Faine really stands out along the offensive line.  Part of the problem with Notre Dame football in general over this time period has been ineffective offensive line play and a lack of players like Faine.

If Notre Dame had a few more linemen of Faine’s caliber, maybe the Irish wouldn’t have had four coaches over the last 11 years.

Notable performances, records & awards at Notre Dame

  • AP 2nd Team All-American in 2002
  • ESPN and Sporting News 1st Team All American in 2002
  • Finalist for Remington Award in 2002
  • Semi-finalist for Lombardi Award in 2002
  • USA Today All American coming out of high school
  • Started all 36 games for Notre Dame from 2000-2002
  • One of only two Notre Dame players to be 1st round draft picks from 2000-2011

Post Notre Dame career

After being a first round pick of the Cleveland Browns in the 2003 NFL Draft, he spent three seasons in Cleveland before being traded to the New Orleans Saints during the 2006 NFL Draft.  Faine spent the next two seasons in New Orleans where he earned a Pro Bowl Alternate selection following the 2007 season.

In 2008 Faine signed as a free agent with the Tampa Bay Bucs where he has played the past three seasons while serving as an offensive captain for the team.

Notre Dame 2018 Under Armour & Army All American Bowl Preview

Faine’s pro career hasn’t quite lived up to the expectations of a first round pick, but he has had a solid career and looks to have a place in the league for the next several years.  With the Bucs as an up and coming team led by the young and promising Josh Freeman at quarterback, Faine has a chance for some successful seasons in Tampa.

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  1. JimmyIrish 6 years ago

    How much longer do I have to wait for #2 and #1? :/

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  2. ted 6 years ago

    if our d picks up where we left off last year, h. smith could easily be first team all-american. i don’t think he gets enough credit.

    in the last four games, h.smith had 5 picks! averaged over a season that is over 15 interceptions and an ncaa all-time record.

    his progress since weis left has been remarkable. it is prime example of how important coaching is in college football.

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    1. JC 6 years ago


      I think your spot on with Harrison and the numbers will equate for him rapidly this year.

      Further, after BK’s bailout of 4-5 to 8-5 last year should instill full confidence in the coaching staff. It certainly has been a long time since we have had a well rounded BCS Caliber Head Coach.

      Hey Bleed, get ready to take a bow for the #1 prediction
      ……..Brady Quinn.

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  3. fnwchs 7 years ago

    #2 Brady Quinn
    #1 Golden Tate

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  4. Beaver 7 years ago

    Kind of off the subject, but I was wondering if you guys could tell me which is a better site to subscribe to…Irisheyes or Irishillustrated. I love this site and reading your comments and you guys are all much more informed then me. Just wondering if anyone out there would have a preference. Thanks!

    Go Irish!!!

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    1. JC 7 years ago

      Like leave it to Beaver? JK.

      They are both good. Subscribe to one for a year… then the other, then decide which one you like.

      A clear modus vivendi.

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      1. Beaver 6 years ago

        Everyone is so hard on the Beaver. Thank you very much. I think I’ll try that.

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  5. Shazamrock 7 years ago

    I see where ND has persuaded Michigan to allow Big East Refs for their night game at the big house.
    I have seen enough college football to know that the home team will get a call or two by the Ref’s. That’s to be exspected to some extent.
    Most officiting crews are bright enough to not be openly blatent about farvoritism toward the home team. But the last time ND played at Michigan, the calls made by the home town ref’s was down right insulting to the intelligents’ of anyone who was watching. Those refs were determined to make calls that not only gave Michigan an advsantage, but all but guarantee a Michigan victory. Over the years it got so bad that every time ND went into Michigan, everyone wondered just how bad the screw-job would be. We all came to exspect nothing less. It was a joke!

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  6. Shazamrock 7 years ago

    The one thing that I remember most about Faine is how he went full out on every play until the whistle blew. Even at that, there were many times he had to be restrained by teammates after the play had ended.
    He had his fair share penilties for roughness and hitting after the whistle
    Those were always penilties that I, as a fan, could live with. It sent a message that we weren’t going to be bullied, pushed around, or intimidated.
    Jeff Faine never took a play off. Never backed down, never quit.

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  7. C-Dog 7 years ago

    I forgot about Jeff Faine. But Frank, your stats do not lie. You got this one right. Also, a great thought for incoming linemen. After Willingham and Weis, demphsizing the line, Kelly is brining back the respect to the line(s). We will have more Jeff Faine’s in the next few years.

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  8. JC 7 years ago

    Yeah, Jeff is one tough hombre. 1st stop Cleveland…what a shame. Unfortunately, Cleveland has been one of the arm pits of the NFL lately. Too bad Brady wanted to go there. Jeff is Mr. Nasty and a joy to watch. I’m sure he will have continued success at Tampa. Excellent pick for #3.

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