#10 George Connor: Notre Dame Football’s Top 25 Players

George Connor - Notre Dame Lineman
Photo provided by Fighting Irish Media

#10 George Connor, OL/DL/LB, 1946-1947

George Connor may have had the most unusual recruitment of any player on this hallowed list.

He was in Notre Dame’s back yard and was an All-State tackle at De La Salle in Chicago.  Connor was  a bruiser and hit so hard in practice that his high school coaches often held him out of contact drills and scrimmages for fear he would hurt his teammates.

Connor loved Notre Dame, but had an uncle who was a priest at Holy Cross in Worcester, and George followed his father’s wishes by enrolling at Holy Cross.  He helped lead the Crusaders to new heights.  A patriot, he enlisted in the Navy after his second year at Holy Cross.

Satellite Camps: Frank Leahy’s Concept

Early in 1944, George’s V-12 unit was called to active duty. He was commissioned an ensign and assigned to a subchaser in the Pacific, which eventually docked at Pearl Harbor. A command car pulled up to the dock and a Navy sailor approached the ship and summoned George Connor to a meeting with Commander Leahy.

An astounded Connor was driven to meet with Leahy, right there in Pearl Harbor, who reminded Connor how sincerely and passionately he had recruited George when he was at DeLaSalle in Chicago. Leahy refreshed his interest in Connor and told Connor that the welcome mat would be rolled out for Connor if he found his way to  Notre Dame after the war was over. Leahy emphasized that he was building a great roster to continue the success of the ’43 team and that Connor could join a squad with the capability  of winning the national championship. When George’s tour of duty was over and after he was discharged from the Navy, he did transfer to Notre Dame.

Frank Leahy was not going to let a little thing like the Pacific Theater of Operations interfere with his building a great team at Notre Dame!

1946: Connor Goes from Scout Team to Outland Trophy

Superstar or not, Connor was being treated like any other player.  Frank Leahy had assembled over 100 players for his ’46 team, and the competition was fierce.

The clever Leahy used different techniques to calibrate both athleticism and desire.  He broke the squad up into sprint relay teams, drafted as if it were playground basketball. Connor noticed a stocky non-gazelle and was worried about the guy being the anchor man on Connor’s relay unit. But this chubby guy with big feet took off and passed all the others, clinching the relay race and ensuring that Connor and his fellow racers would be exempt from post-practice laps.

The “chubby guy with big feet” was Bill “Moose” Fischer (who is #23 on this list) and he and fellow Chicago native Connor struck a friendship that would grow as they played next to each other on the unbeaten teams of ’46 and ’47.  Frank Leahy was ahead of his time on “team-building” exercises.

Leahy had various techniques to ensure that  the cream would rise to the top.  Connor had risen to second string in preseason practices, but Leahy kept him there to build up the resentment and steam in the proud Connor. Leahy looked at a restless Connor and challenged him, asking if he thought he could do better.  Connor wanted the chance, and, even though Leahy ran plays to directly challenge him, when the dust settled it was clear that Connor not only deserved to be first string but that he was the best lineman on the team.

George Connor never looked back.

George was consensus All-American that year and was voted by the Philadelphia sportswriters as the nation’s Lineman of the Year. That same year he was named the first-ever recipient of the Outland Award as the best interior lineman in the country. This was remarkable as he was completely unknown before the season started.

He was drafted in the first round by the New York Giants but turned that down to play on the 1947 Irish.  He was named team captain, particularly noteworthy because Johnny Lujack was also on that team.

”He was indestructible,” said his Notre Dame coach, Frank Leahy. (per Frant Litsky, New York Times, May, 2003)

He was a hard core of solid muscle, prompting Grantland Rice to remark  of the 6’4” 240 lb Connor “He is the closest thing to a Greek God since Apollo. “

During the ’46-’47 seasons, with Connor anchoring both the offensive and defensive lines (before passing the latter off to Leon Hart for ’48 and ’49) Notre Dame rushed for over 5500 yards and allowed just over 1300 yards rushing. They outrushed opponents, in those 18 games, 305-75, outscoring them 31-4.

Connor had exhausted his eligibility after the 1947 season at Notre Dame.  He never lost a game at Notre Dame.

Connor has been inducted into both the College and NFL Halls of Fame.

Go Irish!

5Angelo BertelliQuarterback1940-1943
6Ross BrownerDefensive End1973, 1975-1977
7John LattnerRunning Back/Defensive Back1950-1953
8Tim BrownWide Receiver1984-1987
9Paul HornungQuarterback1953-1956
10George ConnorOffensive Line/Defensive Line1946-1947
11Luther BradlyCB1973, 1975-1977
12Jim LynchLinebacker1964-66
13Alan PageDefensive End1964-66
14Frank CarideoQuarterback1928-30
15Creighton MillerHalfback1941-43
16Jaylon SmithLinebacker2013-15
17Raghib "Rocket" IsmailWide Receiver/All-Purpose1988-90
18Tom ClementsQuarterback1972-74
19Chris ZorichNose Tackle1988-90
20Aaron TaylorGuard/Tackle1990-93
21Nick BuonicontiLinebacker/Guard1958-61
22Ken MacAfeeTight End1974-77
23Bill "Moose" FischerLeft Guard1945-48
24Todd LyghtCornerback1987-90
25Louis "Red" SalmonFullback1900-03

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