I created a primer to this project which explains the way we’ll be ranking all 185 players. It will be a pyramid structure and as we ascend the players will get better and better. Follow along this off-season as we preach about all the wonderful talent that has played for Notre Dame.
Today, we step up into the 4th level of the pyramid and into the Top 20 all-time.
Consensus or Unanimous All-American
Major CFB Award
28. Adam Walsh, C, Hollywood, California (1922-24)
The anchor of the Seven Mules offensive line that blocked for the Four Horsemen and is considered by some to be Notre Dame’s best center in school history. Walsh started for 2 years and was captain of the 1924 squad that brought the university its first National Championship. He played large stretches of the ’24 season with broken hands and has always been in the conversation as one of Notre Dame’s best leaders. Walsh was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1968.
27. Bob Dove, E, Youngstown, Ohio (1940-42)
Dove was a three-year starter for Notre Dame and a consensus All-American on Frank Leahy’s first two teams, being 1 of only 16 players to be named consensus twice in their careers. He was a menace on defense but also the top target in the passing game on offense. Dove was selected as the 2nd team defensive end by Street & Smith’s 50-year team that spanned from 1941 to 1990. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2001.
26. Chris Zorich, DT, Chicago, Illinois (1988-90)
Only 8 players in Notre Dame history have won a National Championship, been named at least a consensus All-American once, and taken home one of the country’s top individual awards. Zorich is in that group. A converted linebacker, Zorich made 219 tackles over 3 seasons and was a consensus All-American in 1989 and an unanimous All-American in 1990. Following his senior season, he was given the Lombardi Award and in 2007 was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame at the extremely young age of 38 years old.
25. Tom Gatewood, WR, Baltimore, Maryland (1969-71)
Notre Dame’s first African-American captain, Gatewood re-wrote the Irish receiving record books despite being slowed down during his senior season. When he graduated he was the career leader in receptions, receiving yards, 100-yard receiving games, and touchdowns. Gatewood’s 77 receptions in 1970 stood as the school record for 35 years and he remains tied for 5th all-time in career catches. During the 1970 campaign, he set the school record yet to be broken with 7.7 receptions per game. Gatewood was named a consensus All-American in 1970 and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2014.
24. Bob Golic, LB, Cleveland, Ohio (1975-78)
When Golic graduated he was Notre Dame’s all-time leader in tackles and remains in 2nd place today. His 26 tackles against Michigan in 1978 remains tied for the most-ever in a game. During the 1975 season, Golic made 82 tackles as a freshman which remains the school record by a whopping 14 tackles. He picked up some All-American honors during the 1977 National Championship run and was named an unanimous All-American after his senior 1978 season.
23. Aaron Taylor, OT, Concord, California (1991-93)
Taylor is remembered as a tackle by many but was actually a consensus All-American guard in 1992. He started the last 30 games of his career and switched to tackle as a senior. For 1993, Taylor won unanimous All-American honors at his new position and was captain of the Irish. He won the Lombardi Award and is one of 5 Notre Dame players to take home that award. Taylor was announced to the College Football Hall of Fame ballot in early June this year.
22. Emil Sitko, RB, Fort Wayne, Indiana (1946-49)
Sitko was one of the most productive backs in Irish history and has the honor of being the only player in Notre Dame history to lead the team in rushing for 4 years. He entered Notre Dame as a 23-year old after serving in World War II and earned the Hall of Fame nickname “Six-Yard Sitko.” For the record, he finished his career with 6.1 yards per rush. When his time at Notre Dame ended, Sitko fell just short of the school record for total rushing yards. He was a consensus All-American in 1948 and unanimous selection in 1949 while finishing 7th and 8th respectively in the Heisman races. Sitko was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1984.
21. Manti Te’o, LB, Honolulu, Hawaii (2009-12)
Te’o brought home 6 major college football trophies (Bednarik, Walter Camp, Butkus, Lombardi, Maxwell, and Nagurski) after his 2012 senior season which is still one of the greatest individual achievements in school history–and remains the most ever by one player in a single year in college football history from any school. And he fell just 324 points short of winning the Heisman, too. Te’o would finish his career with 437 tackles by far the most in modern times for the Irish and 3rd all-time today. He picked up some All-American honors in 2011 before being named an unanimous All-American in 2012.
20. Todd Lyght, CB, Flint, Michigan (1987-90)
Todd Lyght is the only Notre Dame corner to be both a consensus All-American twice or be named an unanimous All-American. He intercepted 8 passes in 1989 which ranks tied for the 3rd most in a season. He’s also 8th in career pass break-ups for the Irish. Lyght was a captain for the 1990 team and won a National Championship as a sophomore in 1988. He’s surely in line to be the next College Football Hall of Fame nominee from Notre Dame, making the ballot this summer.
19. Bob Crable, LB, Cincinnati, Ohio (1978-81)
There has been no greater tackling machine in Notre Dame history than Bob Crable. For individual games, he’s tied for the most tackles (26) ever and he notched at least 19 tackles in a game on 6 separate occasions. For a season, Crable holds the 1st, 2nd, and 4th most tackles in Notre Dame history. Needless to say, he’s the Irish career leader in this category and unlike to be caught any time soon. He just missed unanimous All-American honors for both 1980 and 1981 but came down with consensus honors in each year. Crable was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2017.