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. He dressed out at 6’4” 250 lbs, the same measurements as Hart, albeit 30 years later.
Dan Devine, with his pro experience, valued tight ends as receivers and was gleeful when Ara left him the legacy of Ken MacAfee.
Devine did not wait, even with a quarterback rotation that remained confused in ’75 and ’76 and MacAfee exploded and was a first team All-American in ’75, then following up be earning consensus All-American honors in ’76 and ’77. He also won the ’77 Walter Camp Award and was an Academic All-America in ’77.
After catching passes from a rogues’ gallery in ’75 and ’76, MacAfee found sympatico with Joe Montana in 1977. MacAfee exploded for 54 catches for 797 yaards and 6 TDS in the ‘77 Champioship Season. Those number were mind-boggling back in n ’77.
For his career MacAfee snagged 128 passes for 15 TDS and 1759 yards. Ken MacAfee, even with all the intervening stars at Tight End, remains the career leading receiver for Notre Dame tight ends.
The reputation of “Tight End University” has been earned by many great players, but Ken MacAfee and Leon Hart are the two most prominent.
MacAfee was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1997.
#22) Ken MacAfee, Tight End, 1974-1977