April 25, 2004

Notre Dame, Ind. – Three former Notre Dame football standouts were selected on the second day of the 2004 National Football League (NFL) Player Draft on Sunday, bringing to five the total of Fighting Irish gridders taken in this year’s NFL player draft.

On Sunday, defensive back Glenn Earl was chosen in the fourth round (122nd overall) by the Houston Texans while fellow defensive back Vontez Duff joined him as a Texan when Houston chose him in the sixth round (170th overall). Offensive tackle Jim Molinaro was the final Irish star taken, selected by the Washington Redskins in the seventh round (180th overall).

The trio joined a pair of Notre Dame players taken on Saturday. Running back Julius Jones was the first Irish player taken, going to the Dallas Cowboys in the second round (43rd pick overall) and was joined by linebacker Courtney Watson, who was taken 17 picks later in the second round (60th overall) by the New Orleans Saints.

The following are brief biographies on the players selected Sunday (players listed alphabetically by last name):

Vontez DuffCornerback5-11, 194Copperas Cove, Texas (Copperas Cove HS)

A native of Copperas Cove, Texas, Duff was a three-year starter at cornerback for Notre Dame, Duff was named a third-team All-American by Associated Press in ’02 and was selected by Street and Smith’s as preseason first-team All-American in ’03. One of four team captains for the 2003 season. One of the nation’s top special teams players, Duff finished his Irish career ranked third on the all-time Notre Dame total kick return list with 1,955 yards and is fourth in all-time kickoff return yards at 1,230. He returned three kicks for touchdowns in his career and holds the ND record for kickoff returns in a career with 120. As a senior, Duff was first on the defense in minutes played with 281:31 and made 100 special teams appearances in ’03. Duff was eighth on the team in tackles in ’03 with 33 (26 solo). He intercepted two passes (55 yards), made two tackles for loss, broke up four passes, forced a fumble and made one fumble recovery.

Glenn EarlFree Safety6-1, 204Lisle, Ill. (Naperville North HS)

A two-year starter at free safety for the Irish, Earl started the ’03 season at free safety and then moved to strong safety after Quentin Burrell entered the starting lineup. Earl earned a reputation as one of the hardest hitters in college football. He finished ’03 with 35 tackles (23 solos), one interception, one quarterback sack and two pass breakups while playing 155:54 minutes. The Lisle, Ill., native finished with a career total of 169 tackles, four interceptions, five fumble recoveries and 9.5 tackles for loss. He started 23 games of his Irish career and played in 36 games overall.

Jim MolinaroOffensive Tackle6-6, 301Bethlehem, Pa. (Catholic HS)

One of four team captains for the Irish in ’03, Molinaro was Notre Dame’s recipient of the Guardians Life Insurance Guardian of the Year Award as a senior. The left tackle took on a leadership role as a senior, leading a young line that matured into a force as the season progressed. The Bethlehem, Pa., native started all 12 games at left tackle in ’03 and played the second-most minutes of any offensive lineman (309:07). Molinaro aw action in 32 games at ND, including 15 starts over the final two seasons of his career. He started the last three games of 2002 season and all 12 in ’03. He was a key factor as running back Julius Jones rushed for a school-record 262 yards against Pittsburgh and also helped Jones rush for 221 versus Navy and for 218 yards against Stanford, the only time in Notre Dame history for a back to rush for 200 or more yards in a game three times in a single season. A 2003 graduate of the Mendoza College of Business with a triple major in economics, sociology and computer applications.