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Gerard Gilberto | | August 29, 2014

Pillars of the Program: Notre Dame

Pillars of the Program: Notre Dame football

The top three pillars of the program are in the video above -- now check out who just missed the cut ...

You can’t tell college football’s true story without exploring the history of Notre Dame. For some people, the Fighting Irish’ success exists in just that … history. Surely, some of Notre Dame’s best years came before the modern era, but they have still strived in every age of college football, from the time of Ivy League dominance to the era of the BCS. The records speak for themselves: best winning percentage of all-time, most players drafted to the NFL, most Heisman Trophy winners, most College Football Hall of Fame members, fewest losses among programs that are at least a century old, third-most wins all time and the longest consecutive win streak against an opponent. 

George Gipp
Halfback | 1917-20
Rushed for 2,341 yards
♦ Scored a total of 156 points
Johnny Lujack
Quarterback | 1943, 46-47
♦ 1947 Heisman Trophy winner
♦ 1947 AP Male Athlete of the Year
Paul Hornung
Quarterback | 1954-56
♦ 1956 Heisman Trophy winner
♦ Consensus All-American (1955)
"The Four Horsemen"
QB, RB, RB, FB | 1922-24
♦ Lost just twice in three seasons
♦ None bigger than 6'0", 162 lbs.
Leon Hart
Tight End | 1954-56
♦ On back-to-back national title teams
♦ 1949 Heisman Trophy winner
Joe Montana
Quarterback | 1975, 77-78
♦ Led Irish to national title in 1977
♦ Threw for 4,121 yards, 25 TDs
Tim Brown
WR/RB | 1984-87
♦ 1987 Heisman Trophy winner
♦ Career: 5,024 all-purpose yards
Tony Rice
Quarterback | 1987-89
♦ Led Irish to 1988 national title
♦ 34 career TDs (23 ground, 11 air)

It’s a program with no affiliation other than the Catholic Church, and for years has gotten more than just Catholics and Irish-Americans from all over the country to turn their attention to South Bend, Indiana every Saturday afternoon.

The Four Horsemen
After George Gipp died of strep throat in 1920, it was more than Knute Rockne’s famous, “win one for the Gipper,” speech that lifted the program's spirits in the coming years. In 1922, Rockne was blessed with the backfield of quarterback Harry Stuhldreher, running backs Jim Crowley and Don Miller and fullback Elmer Layden, at the time they were all sophomores starting for the Irish. In their three years together, they lost only twice, winning a national championship with an undefeated record in 1924. The name was the brainchild of renowned sports writer Grantland Rice in a story written in the New York Herald-Tribune: “In dramatic lore their names are Death, Destruction, Pestilence, and Famine. But those are aliases. Their real names are: Stuhldreher, Crowley, Miller and Layden.”

Leon Hart
Of the 11 national championships recognized by the Irish, Rockne has three, Ara Parseghian has two and the Frank Leahy sits atop the list with four. Leon Hart was on the back-to-back national championship teams in 1946-47 and won the Heisman Trophy and the Maxwell Award in ’49 when Leahy claimed his fourth title. Hart was a tight end with 751 yards and five touchdowns in her career, and played back in the day when the good players didn’t care if they had the ball; they were staying on the field.  Note the nose for the ball he has as a defensive end around the one-minute mark.

Joe Montana
Before he was one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL, Joe Montana won a national championship in 1977. Montana was recruited by Parseghian, but played under Dan Devine. Outside of the national championship, Montana’s final game was one of his best. The 1979 Cotton Bowl Classic was nicknamed, "The Chicken Soup Game” where Joe Cool became Joe Flu, yet still led a last-second comeback and a 35-34 victory against Houston. Montana threw for 4,121 yards and 25 touchdowns, while also running in three scores of his own in the three seasons he played at Notre Dame.

Tim Brown
In 1987, Tim Brown became Notre Dame’s seventh Heisman Trophy winner and the first wide receiver to win the award. Brown had 846 yards and three touchdowns receiving.  His career mark of 5,024 all-purpose yards is the most all-time in Notre Dame history, 1,937 of those yards came in his junior year, a single-season record for the program. “Timmy Touchdown” found the end zone 22 times in his career, with nine scores coming in that same junior season. Brown played his best and final two seasons under another ND coaching legend, Lou Holtz. 

Tony Rice
Tony Rice was the quarterback of the 1988 national championship team. In that season, Rice threw for 1,176 yards with eight touchdowns and ran for a team leading 700 yards and nine touchdowns during an undefeated Fiesta Bowl-winning season. He was also the man throwing the passes that Tim Brown caught in his 1987 Heisman Trophy-winning season. Rice was short in stature, but ran like a bull and fit in Holtz’ control-the-clock offense perfectly.  Although he was a quarterback, Rice had 1,921 yards and 23 touchdowns on the ground and just 2,961 yards and 11 touchdowns passing.

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