Oct. 2, 2013
By Lou Somogyi
Blue & Gold Illustrated
Including walk-ons, approximately 90 players from the state of Texas have matriculated to and played for Notre Dame during the program’s 126-year football history.
Notre Dame’s 2013 roster has eight, the fifth-highest representation from a state: junior safety Nick Baratti (Tomball), who is sidelined this season with a shoulder injury, junior corner Jalen Brown (Irving), freshman walk-on receiver Omar Hunter (Harlingen), freshmen receivers Torii Hunter Jr. (Prosper) and Corey Robinson (San Antonio), junior running back Cam McDaniel (Coppell), freshman tight end Durham Smythe (Belton) and fifth-year senior kicker Nick Tausch (Plano).
Since the 1980s, Notre Dame has made greater inroads in its ability to attract and lure blue-chip talent from the Lone Star State to South Bend, Ind. That growth is reflected in our all-time Notre Dame “All-Texas” starting lineup featuring 25 players. Other than at running back, most of these players suited up for Notre Dame within the last 30 years.
QUARTERBACK: Carlyle Holiday (2000-04)
On signing day 2000, option specialist Holiday stunned many when he selected the Fighting Irish over Nebraska.
Holiday directed an 8-0 start in 2002 and finished his career with 2,876 yards passing and 898 rushing before moving to wide receiver in 2003 when freshman Brady Quinn, Notre Dame’s all-time passing leader, enrolled. Holiday would also play receiver in the NFL.
RUNNING BACKS: Christie Flanagan (1925-27, Port Arthur), and Coy McGee (1945-48, Longview)
Along with George Gipp (1918-20) and Emil Sitko (1946-49), Flanagan is the only Notre Dame back to lead the team in rushing in each of his varsity seasons since the Knute Rockne era. The two-time All-American totaled 1,822 yards on the ground while averaging 6.4 yards per carry.
McGee, the older brother of former Green Bay Packers standout receiver Max McGee, often was fourth team on the 1946-47 Notre Dame national champions that are classified as the greatest collection of college football talent ever assembled.
Yet as a sophomore in 1946, McGee was inserted into the starting lineup in the finale against USC by assistant head coach Ed “Moose” Krause, serving as the acting coach in place of an ailing Frank Leahy. McGee carried six times against the Trojans for 146 yards, highlighted by a 78-yard jaunt to open the scoring in the 26-6 Irish victory to clinch the national title He also scored on an eight-yard run.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Tim Brown (1984-87, Dallas) and David Givens (1998-2001, Humble)
The 1987 Heisman Trophy winner, Brown is the most famous Notre Dame player from Texas. He still holds the two highest single-season all-purpose yardage totals at Notre Dame, accumulating 1,937 as a junior in 1986, followed by 1,847 the ensuing season.
Tied with defensive lineman Alan Page for most career Pro Bowl selections (nine) by a Notre Dame alumnus, Brown is fifth on the NFL’s all-time chart in career receptions, 1,094, accounting for 14,934 yards and 100 touchdowns.
Givens caught 72 passes during his Irish career and achieved greater fame in the NFL, where he won two Super Bowl rings with the New England Patriots while becoming one of quarterback Tom Brady’s favorite targets. He snatched a total of 90 passes for the 2003 and 2004 Patriots, snaring a touchdown pass in both Super Bowl wins.
Honorable mention notice goes to Omar Jenkins (2000-2003, Dallas), who caught 73 passes in his last two seasons with the Irish.
TIGHT END: Robin Weber (1972-76, Dallas)
Playing in the shadow of consensus All-Americans Dave Casper (1973) and Ken MacAfee (1975-77), Weber still grabbed what many consider the most famous pass in Notre Dame history. With the national title on the line and the Irish clinging to a 24-23 lead with two minutes left against No. 1 Alabama in the 1973 Sugar Bowl, Weber caught a 35-yard heave from quarterback Tom Clements on third-and-eight from the Notre Dame three. Weber succeeded Casper as the starter the next year and caught 13 passes for 206 yards before a mid-season injury slowed his football career.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Dave Huffman (1975-78, Dallas), Tim Huffman (1977-80, Dallas), Jordan Black (1999-2002, Rowlett), Mike Gandy (1996-2000, Garland), and John Dampeer (1970-72, Kermit)
Center included 1946 All-American George Strohmeyer (McAllen) and four-year starter Bob Morton (2003-06, McKinney), but Dave Huffman was an All-America, three-year starter and a national champion while snapping to Joe Montana. He also thrived 12 years in the NFL.
Little brother Tim Huffman also was a three-year starter at guard and played five years for the Green Bay Packers.
Black started all four seasons at Notre Dame, 42 games total, lining up both as a left tackle and right guard during, and also had a 10-year NFL career.
Left tackle Gandy, originally recruited as a tight end, started for 2009 Super Bowl participant Arizona and was a nine-year mainstay in the NFL.
Dampeer started at right tackle for the 1970 Notre Dame team that finished No. 2 in the country and produced the school’s highest total yards per game average (510.5) to this day. He was elected a co-captain in 1972.
Also meriting honorable mention notice at tackle are Justin Hall (1988-92, Plano) and Rob Martinovich (1976-79, Houston).
DEFENSIVE LINE: Bert Berry (1993-96, Humble), Wally Kleine (1983-86, Midland), and Kapron Lewis-Moore (2009-12, Weatherford)
A hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end, Berry cracked the starting lineup for several games as a freshman for the 11-1 Irish in 1993, and finished with 10 sacks as a senior. He also produced 65 sacks during his 13-year NFL career.
Kleine was recruited as a 6-9 tight end but became a force along the defensive line, recording 163 career tackles (39 for lost yardage, 13 of them sacks) en route to becoming a second-round NFL pick.
Lewis-Moore arrived as an outside linebacker but became a four-year starting end, finishing with 180 tackles, 22 for loss with 12 sacks while helping the 2012 Irish reach the BCS Championship.
Honorable mention to Cedric Hilliard (2000-03, Arlington), who started his final three seasons and effectively clogged the middle much of his career.
LINEBACKERS: Bobby Leopold (1976-79, Port Arthur), Anthony Denman (1997-2000, Rusk), Tyreo Harrison (1998-01, Sulpher Springs), and Grant Irons (1997-2001, The Woodlands)
Leopold recorded 180 tackles and six interceptions, returning three of them for touchdowns, a Notre Dame record for linebackers. As a sophomore for the 1977 national champs, he made 53 stops and four interceptions in a reserve capacity. He also won a Super Bowl ring with the San Francisco 49ers in 1981.
Denman received second-team All-America recognition in 2000 while earning Team MVP honors for an Irish team that went to the BCS. He recorded 207 tackles during his career, 84 as a senior (14 for lost yardage).
An honorable mention All-America, Harrison notched a team-high 91 tackles as a senior, 11 for lost yardage and was the recipient of the Nick Pietrosante Award, given to the Irish player who best exemplifies courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and pride as voted by his teammates.
Irons became the 13th two-time captain for the Irish while working at inside linebacker, outside linebacker and defensive end during his career.
Honorable mention to Jimmy Friday (1995-98), who finished second in tackles (79) as a senior and first as a junior (109).
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Bobby Taylor (1992-94, Longview), Vontez Duff (2000-03, Copperas Cove), A’Jani Sanders (1996-99, Houston), and Gerome Sapp (1999-02, Houston)
Taylor broke into the starting lineup as a freshman free safety for the 10-1-1 Irish in 1992, had one of the best seasons ever by an Irish cornerback for the 11-1 unit in 1993, and turned pro after his junior campaign in 1994, when he received All-America notice. The second-round pick became a Pro Bowl performer for the Philadelphia Eagles.
In 2002, cornerback Duff and safety Sapp helped comprise one of the best Notre Dame secondary units in the last 30 years. Duff earned third-team All-America notice (the other corner, Shane Walton, was a first team selection), while Sapp teamed with fellow future pro Glenn Earl as playmaking safeties. Duff played three years in the NFL while Sapp was there five years.
In 1999, Sanders led Notre Dame in tackles (91) and finished with 225 during his career. He also intercepted eight passes, two of them in a 1997 upset of LSU in Baton Rouge.
Also deserving notice is cornerback Greg Lane (1990-93, Austin), a three-year starter.
Rossum holds the NCAA record for most career touchdowns on runbacks with nine — three on interceptions, three on kickoffs and three on punt returns. He became the lone player in NFL history to tally a touchdown return with five different franchises (Philadelphia, Green Bay, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and San Francisco), and finished second to Brian Mitchell in all-time return yardage in NFL annals.
As a freshman in 2009, Tausch converted a then Notre Dame record 14 straight field goals, and he became the first kicker in Irish history to make five field goals in a game without a miss, achieving that in a 37-30 overtime victory versus Washington.
Four-year Smith averaged 41.2 yards per punt at Notre Dame and enjoyed a 12-year NFL career, including a Super Bowl title at Indianapolis.
Honorable mention to Dallas native Joe Unis, who on his final play scored the game-winning extra point twice, after an Irish penalty, in the legendary 35-34 victory over Houston in the 1979 Cotton Bowl.