On this date in Notre Dame Football History:
Sources for the calendar are 100 Years of Notre Dame Football by Gene Schoor, The Fighting Irish 1999 Calendar, Knute Rockne by Francis Wallace, The Notre Dame Football Scrapbook by Cohen, Deutsch and Neft and The Fighting Irish Football Encyclopedia by Mike Steele, Shake Down The Thunder by Murray Sperber, One for The Gipper by Patrick Chelland, 75 Years of Notre Dame All-Americans and The Notre Dame Football Encyclopedia.
The nation is shocked to learn that one of its most beloved sports figures, Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne, is dead. "It takes a big calamity to shock this country all at once," observes legendary humorist Will Rodgers, "but Knute, you did it. You died one of our national heroes."
Emil "Red" Sitko is one of the greatest fullbacks in Notre Dame history: At only five-foot-eight and 175 pounds, Sitko was a dogged runner who never lost a game in three years under Frank Leahy, from 1947 to 1949. In his final two seasons, Sitko was a consensus All-American. He ended his career with 2,226 yards and twenty-six touchdowns.
Opponents had an incredibly difficult time trying to pass on Ara Parseghian's 1967 team. That squad set long-standing NCAA season defensive records for lowest completion allowed (.333) and fewest yards allowed per pass attempt (3.78).
Dave Huffman is born in Dallas in 1957.
Center/Tackle (1975-78),6'5", 245 lbs.
Once the ball is snapped, it's not always easy to pick out the center on a football team. He's often buried beneath a pile of wide bodies, but Dave Huffman came up with a plan that would make it easy for his mother to find him in these scrums. Huffman wore red elbow pads, which helped her pick him out of the crowd.
Huffman was a prep All-American at Dallas's Thomas Jefferson High School and went on to play alongside his brother, Tim, at Notre Dame in 1977 and 1978. He began his Notre Dame career as a tackle but was shifted over to center in his sophomore season, during which he won the starting job. In 1977, he was the anchor of the offensive line that helped Notre Dame score 382 points and chalk up 4,840 yards of total offense en route to a national championship. During the season he played 308 minutes and may not have gotten the credit from the casual fan that quarterback Joe Montana, running back Jerome Heavens, and tight end Ken MacAfee did, but his play didn't go unnoticed. He was an exceptional blocker on runs as well as pass plays. A versatile athlete, he would also line up in a double tight end formation opposite MacAfee, and once caught a pass for 16 yards.
The next season he was just as good. He threw one memorable block that sprung Montana for a score in a 26-17 victory over Pittsburgh. Huffman, linebacker Bob Golic, and Montana were the three key elements in Notre Dame's 9-3 season, which earned the Fighting Irish a season-ending rank of seventh according to the Associated Press. Huffman was a consensus All-American, and Minnesota selected him in the second round of the 1979 NFL draft. He played center, guard, and tackle for twelve years for the Vikings before retiring in 1990 to become a broadcaster.
Tragically, Dave was killed in November 1998 in a one-car crash. He was on his way to South Bend for Notre Dame's last home game of the year.
Take the link below to
Bill Moor's article on Dave's memory from the South Bend Tribune.
Many businesses across America close for the afternoon as CBS radio broadcasts Knute Rockne's funeral live from Notre Dame, Indiana. At Notre Dame, thousands of people line the street as the funeral cortege makes its way to and from the campus church. Players on the 1930 team act as pallbearers. Among those attending the service is a delegation sent by the king of Norway; Notre Dame president Rev. Charles O'Donnell delivers the sermon, commenting that Rockne was "the true American character ...an inspirer of young men in the direction of high ideals that were conspicuously exemplified in his own life."
Spring football practice is a tradition almost as old as the game itself: While the NCAA continues to limit what teams can do, coaches still embrace the opportunity to experiment with new schemes and try out new players. "In the spring, every single player-no matter where he is on the depth chart-runs the same number of plays as the first team," Coach Lou Holtz once said "Everyone gets a chance to show what he can do."
Tailback Ricky Watters is born in 1969.
Ricky Watters, who would become one of Notre Dame's most exciting offensive performers and kick returners, is born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. From 1987 to 1990, Watters would flip-flop his roles -running back as a freshman, wide receiver as a sophomore, then running back again for his final two seasons- but he would always make a significant contribution to Lou Holtz's offense. Watters also would be an outstanding punt returner who twice would gallop more than 80 yards for a score.
Jim Martin, tackle, is born in 1924.
Martin had a good reason to keep football in perspective, not that it affected his play. The Cleveland native was a bona fide war hero. He won a Bronze Star as a member of the Marine Corps before moving to Notre Dame, where he played for a program that didn't lose any games.
During the four years that Martin was at Notre Dame, the team had an undefeated record of 36-0-2 and won three national championships (1946,1947, and 1949). Martin, who played on both sides of the ball, was a great lineman who combined quickness, strength, courage, and determination. He played end on defense and tackle on offense his entire college career. He started seven games at left end as a freshman and recovered 3 fumbles as Notre Dame went 8-0-1 and won the national championship. The following season the Fighting Irish went 9-0 and won another title; Martin rushed 10 times for 86 yards and a touchdown and caught 13 passes for 170 yards.
Martin's junior season included several personal highlights. He blocked a punt, which fullback John Panelli ran back for a 70-yard touchdown in a 28-27 season-opening victory over Purdue. He also caught a 13-yard touchdown pass in a 44-13 romp over Nebraska, and finished the season with 14 receptions for 98 yards and a touchdown.
Martin was a co-captain his senior year, during which Notre Dame outscored its opponents 360-86 and only had one close game-a 27-20 season-ending victory over SMU. The Fighting Irish's perfect season earned them another national crown, and Martin was named a first-team All-American. He also won the George Gipp Award, which is handed out every year to the school's finest athlete.
The Cleveland Browns selected Martin in the second round of the 1950 NFL draft. He played one season for the Browns before being traded to the Detroit Lions, for whom he played a dozen seasons. Among his honors was a Pro Bowl appearance in 1962 and an induction into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1995.
Jack Cannon, all-time great guard for Notre Dame, is born in 1907.
You could call Jack Cannon a lot of things. It would be fair to characterize him as a rebel, a free spirit, or as competitive or erratic, but one thing you couldn't call him was soft. Cannon, who was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1965, was one of the most outstanding guards in Notre Dame history as well as the last player to play without a helmet. He was one of the standouts of the 1929 Notre Dame team, which had to play its season under unusual circumstances: the team went undefeated despite having to play all of its nine games on the road due to the construction of Notre Dame Stadium. The constant train rides and games in front of enemy crowds may have bothered some players, but not Cannon. It actually charged him up; he liked upsetting the home crowd with a Notre Dame victory.
During games Cannon would go all out until the contest was no longer in doubt, then he would lose interest. This lack of consistency frustrated head coach Knute Rockne. Still, he remains one of the best to play his position in school history. One of his best games came during his senior season against Army. He kicked off three times and beat the coverage team downfield to make the tackle after each kick. He also made the key block that sprung Jack Elder for a 96-yard interception return in the 7-0 victory. His play was rewarded, as he was named a consensus All-American.
"I'm not sure how or why some of those amazing rallies came about. I'm sure there was a little luck involved at least a few times. I guess, above all, those games taught me a little bit about that Notre Dame spirit described in the Victory March.
---Coach Dan Devine
Steve Niehaus of Cincinnati, Ohio, was the first consensus All-American selection under Dan Devine at Notre Dame. A sturdy defensive tackle, Niehaus finished twelfth in the Heisman Trophy balloting as a senior in 1975. He finished his career with 290 tackles -- twenty-five of which were tackles for losses.
"We tell all of our men that the first and formost requisite of a good football player is that he must have a burning desire to play the game. There is absolutely no substitute for this."
---Coach Frank Leahy
Leon Hart was the last lineman to win the Heisman Trophy, in 1949. Hart was an end from Turtle Creek, Pennsylvania, who was an outstanding blocker and pass receiver on offense and a fierce rusher on defense. Hart received considerable All-American attention in 1947, then was a consensus choice in 1948 and 1949. He was voted Associated Press's male athlete of the year in 1949.
"I looked at the records of people like Knute Rockne and Frank Leahy and Ara Parseghian, and I thought they were misprints. I didn't anyone could win that many and lose so few." ---Coach Lou Holtz
In the early 1970s, when most schools were converting their home field playing surfaces to artificial turf, Notre Dame never seriously discussed the possibility. To this day, Notre Dame Stadium boasts bluegrass. The first game the Fighting Irish ever played on artificial turf was at Michigan State in 1970.
"There's pressure in every coaching job,
but winning makes it a lot easier to accept. Fortunately, we have been
winning. But like one fan told me, 'We're with you Ara, win or tie.' You
notice he didn't say anything about losing."
Bob Williams of Baltimore, Maryland, quaterbacked the Fighting Irish to the national championship in 1949, which earned him consensus All-American honors. Williams completed 83 of 147 passes for sixteen touchdowns -- a huge total in that era. Williams had another steller year in 1950, completing 99 of 210 passes for ten touchdowns.
"We ask players not to waste time with
maneuvers that come easily. Every available minute should be spent on things
that are difficult to perform. A player who works out daily on his weaknesses
will find that he doens not have nearly as many at the close of the
Tom Regner, Offensive guard/Defensive tackle is born in 1944.
(1964-66), 6'1", 245lbs.
During his sophomore and first varsity season at Notre Dame, Regner played defensive tackle. He had 68 tackles, fifth on the team and first among linemen, and played 262 minutes. The next year he was switched to offensive guard, though obviously his defensive ability wasn't a factor in the change. Head coach Ara Parseghian, however, was right to switch Regner's position, because the gifted athlete from Kenosha, Wisconsin, helped the Fighting Irish to the promised land.
The transition was smooth. Regner played 303 minutes as a junior and was named a second-team All-American. Entering his senior year, he was regarded as one of the top offensive linemen in the country, and he lived up to the hype. Notre Dame went 9-0-1 during the 1966 season and outscored opponents 362-38 en route to a national championship. Regner was a major factor in the success. He made nearly every first-team All-American squad, and was also named a first-team Academic All-American.
To put into perspective the talent that he played alongside at Notre Dame, Regner was selected by the Houston Oilers, twenty-third overall, in the 1967 NFL draft and was the third Fighting Irish player picked. The New York Jets used the twelfth pick on guard Paul Seiler, and the Minnesota Vikings selected selected Alan Page with number fifteen. Regner played his entire six-year career with the Oilers.
From The Notre Dame Football Encyclopedia: The Ultimate Guide to America's Favorite College Team.
Notre Dame plays Michigan in football for the second time on this date. The game was played at Green Stocking Park in South Bend before a crowd of more than four hundred spectators, with the Wolverines winning 26-6.
In its second game against Michigan in two days, and its third ever, the Wolverines came to the Notre Dame campus for a "noon dinner" and after "a short ride on the lake" took to the playing field again, but with a change in the lineup. R.S. Babcock, a Michigan players who has been injured the previous day, exchanged jobs with Edward Sqrague, the referee who had officiated the previous day.
Then the first dispute between the two schools erupted. The Notre Dame Scholastic reported: "The University of Michigan was held scoreless by a sturdy Notre Dame eleven and they could not score until the final two minutes of play. Then, while the players were settling a dispute over a play, Sprauge of Michigan snatched the ball out of the referee's hands and dashed for a touchdown." Notre Dame claimed the touchdown was illegal, asserting that Sprauge had tricked them and that he also stepped out of bounds near the goal line. Referee Babcock, (actually a Michigan player!) ruled the play legal, and once again Michigan had a win, this time 10-4. This was the first of a series of controversies that keep the two teams apart for nine years.
From One Hundred Years of Notre Dame Football by Gene Schoor.
John Covington, Safety/Linebacker/Defensive end is born in 1972.
(1990-93), 6'1", 211lbs.
John Covington of Winter Haven, Florida, was an amazing athlete who played in all three zones of Notre Dame's defense -the line, the linebacker position, and the defensive backfield. He began as a free safety in his freshman season, finding his way into all twelve games. The following season he played free safety, strong safety, and linebacker. As a junior, in 1992, Covington added defensive end to his repertoire. In his senior year he became a full-time starter and was back to strong safety; he finished the year fourth on the team in tackles, with 58.
Covington was from a startlingly large and athletic family with twenty kids (his brother played college football and his sister was a track star). He was no different. Covington was the captain of his high school football and basketball teams before he went to Notre Dame. He was drafted in the fourth round of the NFL draft by the Indianapolis Colts, for whom he played in 1994. He finished his career in 1995 as a member of the New Orleans Saints.
Having played Michigan three times in six months, Notre Dame students in 1888 were anxious for regular visits from the Wolverines. But, amazingly, the team only located only 150 miles to the northeast would make only one visit over the next ninety years. Off-the-field feuds would keep these titans of the Midwest from meeting regularly until 1978.
Larry Moriarty is born in 1958.
Fullback (1980-82), 6'2", 223 lbs.
Moriarty was as old, if not older, than the members of the senior class when he arrived in South Bend. Injuries and illnesses cut short his high school career, and he took a three-year hiatus before emerging at home-town Santa Barbara City College in California, where he played for a football team ranked in the national top ten.
Moriarty came to Notre Dame as one of the relatively few transfer students in the school's history-and he was ready to play. He was extremely strong and could bench press 485 pounds, more than twice his weight. He was a backup fullback in 1980, gaining 78 yards on 3 carries. The following year he was again a backup fullback and carried the ball 20 times for 94 yards and a touchdown. Moriarty broke into the starting lineup as a senior, carrying the ball 88 times for a total of 520 yards and 5 touchdowns. He left school as one of the all-time leaders in yards per carry, averaging 5.9.
Moriarty continued to make up for lost football time in the pros. The Houston Oilers selected him in the fifth round of the 1983 NFL draft, and he played the first four years of his nine-year professional career for the franchise. He also played with the Kansas City Chiefs from 1986 through 1991.
From The Notre Dame Football Encyclopedia: The Ultimate Guide to America's Favorite Team.
Dan Devine, who coached the Irish to their Cotton Bowl win over Houston in 1979, in reference to some of the Notre Dame alumni who persisted in attacks on his character: "It's not so bad. Last week a group of Chicago alumni presented me with a pair of moccasins. Water moccasins."
From 1983 to 1995, Notre Dame dominated old rival Southern California like never before. The Fighting Irish never lost a game in that thirteen year stretch, and five times won by more than two touchdowns. Gerry Faust's teams won the first three games of that streak, followed by eight in a row from Lou Holtz before his 1994 team suffered a 17-17 tie in Los Angeles. Holtz's 1995 team bounced back with a 38-10 win before the Trojans finally snapped the streak in 1996 with a 27-20 win in overtime. That '96 game is a classic example of Notre Dame snatching defeat from the jaws of victory...
Tim Ruddy is born in 1972.
Center (1990-93), 6'3", 286lbs,
Ruddy was the student athlete personified. His combination of intelligence (he maintained a 4.0 grade point average in high school) and athletic ability (he was all-state at Dunmore High School, which won the Pennsylvania Class A title) made him a prize for any college that could acquire his services. When Ruddy entered Notre Dame, he enrolled in the College of Engineering in the fall of 1990 and maintained a 3.859 GPA while majoring in mechanical engineering.
Ruddy started only two games in his first two college seasons, but that all changed when he was a junior. He became a starter and finished third among offensive players in minutes played. That season, Notre Dame was among the leaders in the country in total offense, rushing, and scoring (409 points), and Ruddy was one of the reasons. Not only did he play well, he maintained a straight-A average and was a National Academic All-American and the recipient of the 1992 Student-Athlete Award from the Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley.
As a senior, in 1993, Ruddy was the team's starting center for the second consecutive season and was named a tri-captain. He played 298:57, more than any other Fighting Irish player, despite missing a start with a pulled abdominal muscle. Notre Dame finished the season with an 11-1 record and a number two ranking. Ruddy's play earned him first-team All-American recognition. His classroom accomplishments were also duly noted. He was again a first-team Academic All-American, the 1994 Cotton Bowl Scholar-Athlete (Notre Dame defeated Texas A&M, 24-21, in the game), and he earned postgraduate scholarships totaling $28,000 from the NCAA and the National Football Foundation.
The Miami Dolphins selected him in the second round (sixty-fifth overall) of the 1994 NFL draft. As of 2000 he was still with the franchise.
From The Notre Dame Football Encyclopedia: The Ultimate Guide to America's Favorite Team.
Mark Bavaro is born in 1963
Tight end (1981-84),6'4", 242lbs.
Not that he didn't have a wonderful career at Notre Dame, but the rugged, sure-handed Bavaro is probably best remembered for being an All-Pro with the 1986 Super Bowl-winning New York Giants. Bavaro was also a key component for the Giants in 1991, when they won another Super Bowl. He came from a football-playing family-his father Tony played for the San Francisco 49ers in 1960.
Bavaro had been a prep All-American at Danvers High School, in Massachusetts, but injuries made the transition to college slow. As a member of the Fighting Irish he played just three and a half minutes in his first two seasons. A healthy Bavaro caught on-and caught passes-in 1993, when he succeeded Tony Hunter as the starting tight end. He responded by finishing third on the team in catches, with 23, and he led the Irish with 3 touchdowns. At the end of his junior campaign, during the 19-18 victory over Boston College in the Liberty Bowl, he foreshadowed his spectacular senior season when he led all receivers with 5 grabs for 52 yards. As a senior in 1984, Bavaro built on his junior success. He was tops on the team in receptions with 32 for 395 yards and a touchdown, and he was named an All-American.
Bavaro was selected in the fourth round by the Giants and quickly became one of quarterback Phil Simms's favorite targets. He played for the Giants from 1985 through the Super Bowl XXV season of 1991. He then played a year for the Cleveland Browns, and after two seasons, he finished his career with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1994.
From The Notre Dame Football Encyclopedia: The Ultimate Guide to America's Favorite Team.
Coach Holtz would tell us that we would have a half-day practice today. We were all excited until he said it would be a half day, eight in the morning until eight at night.
Ned Bolcar, linebacker, 1986-1989
"Every year they want to slow the shift up slower and slower and slower, which in my opinion is absolutely ridiculous...We couldn't satisfy some of our enemies if we stop five seconds, because their objection is not to the shift, it's to us."
--Coach Knute Rockne, on those who lobbied to have his bread-and-butter offensive attack, the "shift" abolished.
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