Happy Easter to everyone!
My biggest gripe with the $400 million Crossroads project was that it didn’t carve out a space for a Notre Dame football Hall of Fame. There are some artifacts scattered throughout the concourse of Notre Dame Stadium, inside the Gug practice facility, and of course Heritage Hall in the Joyce Center is packed with lots of athletic history for Irish athletic teams, including football.
Still, there’s nothing on campus that does justice to the long history of Notre Dame football.
You’ve probably read many lists of the greatest players in Notre Dame history. What I am embarking on is a Bill Simmons-inspired hall of fame pyramid for Fighting Irish football. The layout is simple: There are 5 levels to the pyramid, and the higher you rise in the pyramid the more prestigious and limited each floor becomes. Also, if someone new makes the pyramid a player has to drop out of a level and/or out of the pyramid entirely. So, we can revisit this in the future when appropriate.
For this initial Notre Dame Hall of Fame Pyramid it’s important to get the size appropriate. If it’s too small we’re just going to be rearranging the true greats and that’s not much fun unless you have hot takes about Joe Montana. But it does have to be large enough so as to include players who have at least garnered some All-American consideration throughout their careers–which makes up a vast majority of the pyramid.
The 18 Stripes Notre Dame Hall of Fame Pyramid will feature 185 players overall.
Level 1 – Dan Devine Floor (55 players)
Level 2 – Lou Holtz Floor (54 players)
Level 3 – Frank Leahy Floor (49 players)
Level 4 – Ara Parseghian Floor (17 players)
Level 5 – Knute Rockne Floor (10 players)
This may seem like a lot of players, too many even. But keep in mind Notre Dame has 47 players in the College Football Hall of Fame alone. A full 17 players have received consensus All-American honors in multiple seasons, 87 players total with consensus All-American honors at least once. Thirty have received unanimous All-American selection. Thirty-five have received Heisman votes in at least one season. Some players received All-American honors of some kind and didn’t make the Hall of Fame Pyramid.
Naturally, our list will skew a little bit in favor of modern players if not in inclusion then at least there will be some bias in the rankings. It’s pretty difficult to judge how great someone like Nordy Hoffman (1 All-American season yet in the College Football Hall of Fame) was as an offensive lineman in 1931 compared to a modern-day receiver like Rhema McKnight who most of us remember watching and can go look back at his highlights.
No currently active players are in the Pyramid, although some will surely be making a case very soon. For the guys approaching the end of their careers for the Irish there are 2 ready to enter if they continue on their path:
QB Ian Book – Let’s say we average out his numbers from last year for a full season and the Irish go 10-3 in 2019. He’d be right around 6,880 career passing yards (4th all-time), his 2019 could surpass Clausen’s 2009 for the 2nd most passing yards in a season, Book would finish with 50 passing touchdowns to 21 career picks, while rushing for 890 yards and 10 more scores. All that with a 19-4 overall record (would be the 7th best winning percentage in school history) as a starter probably makes him a lock for the Pyramid.
DE Julian Okwara – This one could be close. Something approaching 10 sacks in his final year would give him a strong case but maybe not a lock for inclusion. As I mentioned in the Blue-Gold Game recap he’s shaping up to challenge Justin Tuck’s school records in multiple sack departments so it’s fair to say he’s trending in the right direction and likely to make it more than not.
There are 4 more worth mentioning. Each of Khalid Kareem, Troy Pride, Alohi Gilman, and Chase Claypool could make it although for most of them there’d probably need to be some All-American honors for 2019.
Lastly, please remember we are not including any professional highlights are basing anything off what players did in the NFL. This is strictly about a resume while at Notre Dame.
Soon we will begin to explore the Dan Devine floor on the first level.
Congratulations to our five Irish who have been added to the prestigious All-American wall in the stadium: @julianlove27, @JerryTillery, @DTranquill, @smustipher53 and @jkicker19. #GoIrish ☘️ pic.twitter.com/Y5iO0cXFWy
— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) April 12, 2019