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Jun 28, 2010

Top-10: Favorite Fighting Irish Football Players of All-Time

Here it is, the first of many Top-10 lists to come from “Irish Creed.”

TheNDleprechaun’s Top-10:
Favorite Fighting Irish Football Players of All-Time:

#10 - Timmy Brown - our only modern-era Heisman winner - His athleticism and ability to make big plays as a wide receiver and kick returner made for quite the spectacle.  He played with a certain toughness and style that I hope current star wide receiver Mike Floyd will aspire to.

#9 – Jerome Bettis – “The Bus” – He was either the fastest full-back or the biggest running back in Notre Dame history, I’m not sure how to categorize him.  It didn’t really make a difference to the defenders who tried to tackle him though, since they all ended up knowing what it felt like to get run over by a bus.

#8 – Elmer Layden – The full-back in the “Four Horsemen” backfield – Not only was he a crucial part of the best rushing attack in college football history, but as a defender he returned two interceptions for touchdowns during the 1924 National Championship game.

#7 – Don Miller – The right half-back in the “Four Horsemen” backfield – His three older brothers attended Notre Dame before him, where he went on to amaze crowds during his 1924 senior season when Coach Rockne called him “the best open field runner I’ve ever had.”

#6 – Jim Crowley - The left half-back in the “Four Horsemen” backfield - Nicknamed "Sleepy Jim" because of his calm demeanor even during the toughest games, he led the team in scoring during Notre Dame’s first National Championship season in 1924.

#5 – Harry Stuhldreher - "The Little General" – The signal-caller of the “Four Horsemen” backfield - Not only did he lead the Fighting Irish to their first National Championship, but he was also the smallest quarterback in Notre Dame history at 5’7” and 151 lbs.

#4 – Johnny Lujack – After taking over as the starting quarterback in 1943, he left Notre Dame to fight in the Navy until the end of WWII.  When he returned, he led the Fighting Irish to three National Championships and picked up a Heisman along the way.

#3 – Angelo Bertelli – He played in just six games during the 1943 season before answering the call of duty and serving in WWII as a Marine. Not only did this true Fighting Irishman become the first Heisman winner at Notre Dame that year, but after learning of his award while on active duty in the Pacific he went on to add a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart to his trophy case.  Can you get any more All-American than that?

#2 – Golden Tate – GT is the most electrifying player that I have personally seen play for the Fighting Irish.  He played with a swagger and a sense of style that made the game fun for him and all of us who got to watch him (except those who tried to cover him).  He is also a great dude and his presence on campus did a lot for Notre Dame.     

#1 – Raghib “Rocket” Ismail – “GO GET IT!” His nickname says it all.  From his explosive playing style, to his passionate retelling of the 1988 Catholics v Convicts story, to his preacher-like pep rally speeches, everything about The Rocket is on fire.

(Check out the Top-10 lists for FightinIrish1313 and TenDomer in the comment section below.  Feel free to comment on our lists and create your own.)


  1. 10. Reggie Brooks
    After a career of one bruising highlight after another, Brooks maintains a good campus reputation now via his athletic department work.

    9. Corey Mayes
    His invocation to bring down “these two damn goal posts, right here” gave ND a fighting chance in the biggest game of which I have memory.

    8. Jeff Samardzija
    Although his senior year was not as good, the Shark was unbelievable in’05, especially in the night game at Purdue.

    7. Trevor Laws
    Anybody who was a student at ND in 2007 appreciated his effort during a nightmare season.

    6. Dayne Crist
    Having held the ’08 recruits together, the unquestioned team leader is now positioned for three great years.

    5. Tim Brown
    ESPN Classic educated my generation via repeats his performance in the’87 MSU game.

    4. Manti Te’o
    Manti focuses on bringing “joy and honor” to his family and gets bonus points for living in Dillon.

    3. Golden Tate
    From ’07 Purdue to the fateful ’09 Stanford end, Golden was the best player during my student years.

    2. Rocket Ismail
    Two decades after electrifying ND Stadium, Rocket brought more energy to recent pep rallies than all the other speaks combined.

    1. Knute Rockne
    After catching a TD in the historic 1913 win at Army, this amazingly quotable magna cum laude graduate later influenced his alma mater far more than any ND former football player ever.

  2. two lists and not one Joe Montana?

  3. 10)Autry Denson - Notre Dame's all time leading rusher and the most exciting player of my child hood. My first Notre Dame favorite.

    9)Tony Rice - His number 9 jersey will always be staring back at me on the cover of that Sports Illustrated. He was the last quarterback who led the Irish to a NC. Will Dayno be the next?

    8)Tim Brown - Although we have had some worthy players since, Tim Brown remains our last Heisman Trophy Winner and thus earns a spot on this list. His two returns for touchdowns in the 1986 comeback victory over USC is still one of the most impressive showings in Notre Dame history. Although not winning a championship he was a clear reason the Irish were able to return to dominance and bring in the recruits they did to win the 1988 NC.

    7)Ross Browner - The 1977 Lombardi and Maxwell trophy winner who Ethan Johnson needs to spend some time with this post season. He flew off the defensive line better than any end had before him. A true beast that Kelly is scouring the nation for.

    6)Rocket Ismail - 5 career kick off returns. Game breaker before Reggie Bush broke us (and finally USC). Just special… the definition of a college football player. Take away a phantom clipping call and Raghib would have brought Notre Dame 2 straight Orange Bowl wins and left Colorado distraught without payback after we embarassed them to end their championship hopes the year before.

  4. 5)Joe Montana - 4th string quarterback to Cotton Bowl Victory. "Comeback Joe." Sketchers' "Shape-Ups" Poster Boy. He had the "it" factor way before Tebow cried for the first time. Need I say more? Sure I will. He is everything Clausen was not. He doesn't hold any records, and did not put up many note worth stats. But he won a CHAMPIONSHIP and was the greatest leader in Notre Dame History.

    4)Johnny Lujack - The oldest living Heisman Trophy Winner, and winner of three national championships at Notre Dame. His greatest play most likely came on defense as he saved the 1946 championship hopes by taking down Doc Blanchard and preventing an Army Touchdown.

    3)Johnny Lattner - 1953 Heisman winner and 2 time Maxwell Trophy victor, Lattner was one of the most versatile players in Notre Dame history. He was an All American on both sides of the ball, and as if that wasn't enough he was the team's punter too. He wanted to return his own punts but Leahy didn't think that was plausible, so he just let him return the opposing teams' punts and kickoffs.

    2)Leon Hart - Last lineman to win the Heisman Trophy. Number one pick in the 1950 NFL draft. The most victorious player in ND history (36-0-2), Hart dominated on both sides of the ball, being one of the best pass rushers and having one of the greatest pairs of receiving hands of his time. Oh, and if college football awards weren't enough he also took home the 1949 AP Male athlete of the year… Yes, he beat out Jackie Robinson during his NL MVP year and Sam Snead's PGA Player of the year and 2 (almost 3) major championships. Leon is a prime example of when Notre Dame football WAS sports.

    1)Gipp - Notre Dame's first All American, and like Lattner he was a jack of all trades. He led the Irish in both passing and rushing for three straight seasons while also finding time to be the teams punter and one of the best players in the Irish secondary; a pass was never completed in his zone. Where would the Irish be if they never "won one for the gipp?" A name that will live on forever in Notre Dame lore and in the history books as he still leads the Irish in career average yards per rush, average yards per offensive play, and average yards of toal offense per game.

    Honorable Mentions:

    Creighton Miller - Nephew of "Pestilence," Creighton averaged over 6 yards per carry in his 1943 consensus all american season.

    Vagas Ferguson - 1979 rushing campaign may be the greatest in Notre Dame history, one which all future running backs should strive to live up to.

    Allen Pinkett - Most carries and rushing td's in nd history. Most points in Notre Dame History. Most Touchdowns in Notre Dame history. G.

    Terry Brennan - Led the 1946 and 1947 championship teams in receiving and scoring, feats that led to him succeeding Frank Leahy as head football coach.

  5. Glad to see that FightinIrish1313 gave Golden Joe the respect he deserves. Tim Brown and The Rocket both swept the board though. I want to see breffni's list.

  6. I'm showing my youth and inexperience with these picks haha...

  7. Interesting post here, top-10 players. What is so great about it is that there are so many incredible players in the history of Notre Dame to choose from. The legendary players: Knute Rockne, Gus Dorias, George Gipp. Any of our seven Heisman trophy winners, maybe the 463 players we have had drafted in the NFL, or the ten in the NFL hall of fame. The great thing about Notre Dame is that there has been, and will continue to be so much talent that it is truly difficult to only pick ten players, however it must be done. And with that, I present my top-5:

    5. Raghib "The Rocket" Ismail: Considered one of the fastest players to ever play the game, the Rocket was arguably one of the best players under legendary coach Lou Holtz. Ranked the 75th best collegiate football player of all time, it is evident how talented he was. His speed was blinding, and returned two kicks for TDs in a game against Michigan, a feat never before accomplished by any opponent against Michigan.

    4. Tim Brown: Our most recent Heisman winner (and the first wide receiver to do so), Brown--known as 'Touchdown Timmy'-- set multiple records at Notre Dame. He singlehandedly won an intense rivalry game with his two returns for TDs against USC in '86.

    3. Joe Montana: Phenomenal talent, incredible athlete, national champ. Interesting fact, was the player removed from the dress-list so that Daniel 'Rudy' Ruettiger could dress. Considered quitting the team, but was convinced by basketball coach Digger Phelps to play one more season.

    2. George Gipp: This ranking is perhaps due to just how legendary Gipp is. A versatile athlete, Gipp played halfback, quarterback, and punter. Also, if he truly told Rockne to win one for the Gipper, well that just sends chills down my spine.

    1. Knute Rockne: Although perhaps better known for his coaching, it was Knute who developed the forward pass and thus forever changed the game of football.

  8. Thanks for your top 5 IrishCC! We encourage all readers to post their top 5-10 players and if we get enough responses we will compile them and make an official Irish Creed Top 10.


2012 Notre Dame Football Schedule

2012 Notre Dame Football Schedule
DateOpponent / EventLocationTime / Result
09/01/12vs. Navy Dublin, IrelandW, 50-10
09/08/12vs. PurdontNotre Dame, Ind.W, 20-17
09/15/12at SpartyEast Lansing, Mich.W, 20-3
09/22/12vs. SkunkbearsNotre Dame, Ind.W, 13-6
Shamrock Series
10/06/12vs. Da UChicago, Ill.W, 41-3
10/13/12vs. TreesNotre Dame, Ind.W, 20-13 (OT)
10/20/12vs. BYU Notre Dame, Ind.W, 17-14
10/27/12at Oklahoma Norman, Okla.W, 30-13
11/03/12vs. Pittsburgh Notre Dame, Ind.W, 29-26 (3OT)
11/10/12at Backup College Chestnut Hill, Mass.W, 21-6
11/17/12vs. Fake Worest Notre Dame, Ind.W, 38-0
11/24/12at U$C Los Angeles, Calif.W, 22-13
1/7/13vs. AlabamaBCS CHAMPIONSHIP
(Miami, Florida)
L, :(