Feb. 25, 2009

TOKYO – Lou Holtz has revealed the names of 14 University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish football alumni, who have stated a commitment to strap on the pads once more and represent the Notre Dame Football Legends in the Notre Dame Japan Bowl in Tokyo this summer.

All players selected as prospective members of the 60-man traveling roster will be asked to attend a tryout and testing session April 17-18 during the Notre Dame Blue-Gold weekend to prove they are in adequate shape to line up against the Japanese senior national team. The final roster of ND Football Legends will see action in the 55,000-seat Tokyo Dome on Saturday, July 25, as the highlight of a weeklong visit to Japan, which is endorsed and supported by the Notre Dame Monogram Club.

The oldest member of the first group of commitments is former All-America defensive end Frank Stams, a member of the Fighting Irish team that won the college football national championship under Holtz in 1988. The group also includes all-time Notre Dame rushing leader Autry Denson, fullback Ray Zellars, All-America center Tim Ruddy — and 2000 All-American and Fighting Irish team MVP and linebacker Anthony Denman.

Players provisionally selected include: Joe Brockington, Linebacker ’03-’07 Jeff Burris, Defensive Back, ’90-’93; Deke Cooper, Free Safety, ’96-’99; Anthony Denman, Linebacker, ’97-’00; Autry Denson, Tailback, ’95-’98; Chris Frome, Defensive End, ’02-’06; Brian Mattes, Offensive Lineman, ’02-’06; Bob Morton, Offensive Lineman, ’02-’06; Greg Pauly, Defensive Tackle, ’00-’04; Tim Ruddy, Center, ’90-’93; Frank Stams, Defensive End, ’84-’88; Travis Thomas, Linebacker/Running Back, ’03-’07; Shane Walton, Cornerback, ’99-’02; Ray Zellars, Fullback, ’91-’94.

“The recruiting process began way back in September when we first announced this game,” said Bill Lewis, who will be the assistant head coach and defensive backs coach of the Notre Dame Football Legends. “We have made efforts to contact all former Notre Dame players dating back over the last 15 years. On top of that there have been many phone calls and e-mail conversations that have given us one on one contact with as many football alumni as possible.

“The response to all of this has been tremendous. Right now we expect to have 100 former players signed up to participate in the tryout and testing session in South Bend April 18 and we hope to be in a position to announce our complete squad April 19.”

Notre Dame Football Legends provisionally selected for the Notre Dame Japan Bowl:

Joe Brockington, Linebacker ’03-’07 – Played primarily on special teams his first two seasons in ’04 and ’05, then made 20 combined starts at linebacker in ’06 and `07. Finished second on squad in tackles in ’07 with 108 (including 16 vs. Navy and 13 vs. Air Force and Boston College) – and made 503 career special-teams appearances. Part of Irish BCS teams in ’05 and ’06.

Jeff Burris, Defensive Back, ’90-’93 – Consensus All-America free safety served as one of captains of ’93 Irish squad that finished 11-1 (joining Tim Ruddy), defeated #6 Texas A&M in Cotton Bowl and ended up second in both final polls. Scored six rushing TDs in ’93 while working part-time as tailback, often in goal-line situations. Finished with 189 career tackles, 10 interceptions, 12 total TDs. His four seasons with Irish produced combined 40-8-1 record. First-round NFL pick of Buffalo Bills — played from 1994-2004 with Buffalo, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and New England.

Deke Cooper, Free Safety, ’96-’99 – Played in 47 consecutive games, starting six times as freshman in ’96, twice in ’97, five times in ’98 and then all 12 games as senior in `99. Made 203 career tackles and six career interceptions. Originally signed free-agent contract with Arizona Cardinals, then was listed on NFL rosters from 2002-07 for Cleveland, Miami, Carolina, Jacksonville, Atlanta and San Francisco. 2002 Defensive MVP of NFL Europe as a member of Rhein Fire.

Anthony Denman, Linebacker, ’97-’00 – Second-team Associated Press All-American as senior in 2000. An Irish captain as senior. Led Irish in `00 in tackles (84), solo tackles (55), tackles for a loss (14), and shared the team lead in forces fumbles (2). Two-year starter at inside linebacker was named Notre Dame Team MVP in 2000. Drafted in seventh round by NFL Jacksonville Jaguars, then played with Cleveland in ’01 and Buffalo in ’02.

Autry Denson, Tailback, ’95-’98 – Remains Notre Dame’s all-time leading ground gainer with 4,318 rushing yards. Second-team Associated Press All-American in ’98. Completed third straight 1,000-yard rushing season as senior in 1998 – with 1,179 in ’96, then 1,268 in ’97 and 1,176 in `98. His 107 rushing yards on Nov. 14, 1998, vs. Navy broke Irish career rushing record of 4,131 yards previously held by Allen Pinkett. Scored 47 career TDs, 43 on the ground (15 as senior in ’98). Notre Dame career leader in all-purpose yards at 5,327. Made 34 career starts at tailback. Seventh-round pick of NFL Tampa Bay Bucs — then played 1999-2002 with Miami, Chicago, Indianapolis, Cleveland and Detroit.

Chris Frome, Defensive End, ’02-’06 – Made 16 career starts over his final two seasons with Irish, including 10 in 2006. Posted 45 career tackles, 1.5 sacks, and eight pass break-ups. Had career-high five tackles vs. both Air Force and Army in ’06. Played key role on ’05 and ’06 Irish teams that qualified for BCS postseason games. Two-time CoSIDA Academic All-District selection. Signed free-agent contract with NFL Chicago Bears in 2007.

Brian Mattes, Offensive Lineman, ’02-’06 – Veteran reserve at offensive line throughout his Irish career, playing in 37 games (including 10 in ’04 and all 13 in ’06). Worked at offensive tackle in ’03 and ’04, then offensive guard in `05 and ’06. Also earned extensive playing time on special teams. Originally came to Notre Dame as defensive lineman. Helped Irish to BCS appearances after both ’05 and ’06 seasons.

Bob Morton, Offensive Lineman, ’02-’06 – Made 39 career starts for Irish offensive line. Opened in 11 games at center in ’03, started 11 times at left offensive guard in ’04, four times at center in ’05, then all 13 games at left guard in ’06. Helped lead way for Notre Dame 1,000-yard season rushers Julius Jones (’03) and Darius Walker (’05 and ’06). Named to AFCA Good Works Team for his community service work.

Greg Pauly, Defensive Tackle, ’00-’04 – Started all 12 games as senior in 2004 and recorded 37 tackles, one sack and four and a half tackles for loss. Named Irish lineman of year in ’04. Had 17 career starts (three in ’02 at nose guard, two in ’03 as both tackle and nose guard), including 20 tackles and two sacks in `03. Signed NFL free-agent contract in ’05 with Chicago Bears.

Tim Ruddy, Center, ’90-’93 – Four-year letterman and two-year starter was selected as second-team Associated Press All-America as senior in `93. One of four Irish captains as senior in ’93 (joining Jeff Burris). Helped Irish to combined 40-8-1 record over his four seasons. Two-time CoSIDA Academic All-American won postgraduate scholarships from NCAA and National Football Foundation with 3.86 GPA. Second-round draft pick by NFL Miami Dolphns. Started 140 games for Dolphins from 1994-2003 as center for quarterback Dan Marino and was named to the 2001 Pro Bowl.

Frank Stams, Defensive End, ’84-’88 – Led Irish to national title in 1988 as consensus All-America defensive end. Selected as defensive MVP in ’89 Fiesta Bowl win over #2 West Virginia that clinched national crown for Notre Dame. Began his Irish career in `84 at fullback, starting all 11 games there in ’85 and gaining 164 yards with three TDs. Made 51 tackles as senior in ’88, to go with seven sacks. Second-round pick of NFL Los Angeles Rams in ’89 – then played seven years in the league with Rams, Cleveland and Carolina.

Travis Thomas, Linebacker/Running Back, ’03-’07 – Two-time captain of Irish special teams in 2006 and ’07. Began his career as running back (one start each in ’04 and ’05 – and 52 yards vs. USC in `05), then started 10 games as linebacker (35 tackles) in `06. Returned to offense in ’07 and led team in rushing TDs with five (finished with 12 career rushing TDs). Ended up with 409 career rushing yards. Signed free-agent contract with NFL Cleveland Browns.

Shane Walton, Cornerback, ’99-’02 – Unanimous All-America defensive back as senior in 2002. One of five finalists for ’02 Bronko Nagurski Award as best defensive player in nation. Led Irish in passes broken up with eight in ’01, then paced Irish in interceptions with seven in `02. Irish captain and team MVP in ’02. Three-year cornerback starter who had 151 tackles and 11 interceptions in career (three vs. Maryland in ’02). Also a star soccer player for Irish as freshman (BIG EAST all-rookie selection), leading team in scoring with 10 goals and seven assists. Fifth-round pick of NFL St. Louis Rams — playing with St. Louis in ’03 and Pittsburgh in ’04.

Ray Zellars, Fullback, ’91-’94 – Two-year regular for Irish at fullback in ’93 (494 rushing yards) and ’94 (466 rushing yards). Finished with 1,135 career rushing yards (eight TDs) and 28 career receptions (237 yards and five more TDs). Gained 156 rushing yards vs. Purdue in ’94. Drafted in second round by New Orleans Saints in `95 as 44th overall pick. Played with the Saints for four years (1995-98) and in `97 ran for career-high 552 yards and four TDs.

For more information on the Notre Dame Japan Bowl 2009 and Notre Dame Football Legends player bios, visit www.NDJapanBowl.com .