Sept. 16, 2005
By Peter LaFleur
Jeff Samardzija’s acrobatic touchdown catch at Pittsburgh in the 2005 season opener excited Notre Dame football fans, who witnessed a play filled with the perfect combination of execution, concentration and athleticism.
But for fans of the Notre Dame baseball team, they have been well aware of Samardzija’s versatile athletic skills since the spring of 2004. The righthanded pitcher earned baseball Freshman All-America honors that season and returned in ’05 as one of the top pitchers on the Irish staff.
Current freshman quarterback Evan Sharpley is looking to follow in the footsteps of Samardzija by playing both sports at Notre Dame. Samardzija has carefully navigated the scheduling challenges during the past two springs – including one weekend when he caught a touchdown pass in the 2004 Blue-Gold Game and was the starting pitcher the next day in a game at the University of Pittsburgh. Sharpley made a name for himself as a two-sport standout at Marshall (Mich.) High School, earning all-state honors in both sports. The hard-hitting leftside infielder hit .510 with 15 home runs and 45 RBI in 28 games during his 2004 high school baseball season while also emerging as one of the nation’s top-rated quarterback prospects.
If Samardzija and Sharpley steadily develop during their two-sport careers, they have the chance to join a short list of Notre Dame student-athletes who have been All-Americans in football and a second sport. The only four individuals to complete that rare double are Edward “Moose” Krause, Dick Arrington, Bob Golic and Raghib “Rocket” Ismail.
Krause earned All-America honors as a football tackle and basketball center (also earning a monogram in track) and later returned to Notre Dame in 1942, as an assistant basketball and football coach. The Chicago native went on to serve as head basketball coach with the Irish before launching a legendary career as Notre Dame’s director of athletics.
Arrington was a two-way star with the Irish football team, helping protect quarterback John Huarte during his 1964 Heisman Trophy season before collecting his own consensus All-America honors in 1965. The previous winter, the pride of Erie, Pa., turned in an impressive showing at the 1965 NCAA Wrestling Championships, finishing third in the heavyweight division.
Golic also was a standout heavyweight wrestler, compiling a 54-4-1 career record with the Irish while matching Arrington’s third-place finish at the 1976 NCAAs (he then placed fourth in ’77). The Cleveland native was an All-America middle linebacker on Notre Dame’s 1977 national championship football team (totaling 146 of his 479 career tackles). Golic is one of 30 Notre Dame football players – most from any school – ever to receive the unanimous All-America distinction (in 1978), launching him on to a 14-year NFL career spent primarily with the Cleveland Browns.
Ismail lived up to his nickname while blazing his way to All-America honors on the gridiron and the track. The flanker garnered first team All-America honors as a sophomore in 1989 and again in ’90, when he joined Golic and 28 others with the unanimous distinction and was runner-up to BYU’s Ty Detmer for the Heisman Trophy. A starter on the 1988 national championship team, Ismail still holds Notre Dame records for pass reception yards-per-catch in a career (22.0) and kickoffs returned for touchdowns in both a game (2) and a career (5). The Wilkes-Barre, Pa., native also still owns the Notre Dame record in the 55-meters (6.07) and ran to All-America honors in that event by placing second at the 1991 NCAAs.
Former defensive tackle Kevin Hardy – a leading member of Notre Dame’s 1966 national championship team – became Notre Dame’s first student-athlete since the mid-1940s to earn monograms in three sports. Hardy’s sophomore year included his exploits on the gridiron before earning a letter as a top reserve on the basketball team that advanced to the 1965 NCAAs. He collected his third letter of that academic year as a rightfielder with the baseball team, later leading the ’67 squad with a .398 batting average. Hardy’s three years as a starter on the football team included first team All-American honors in 1966 and ’67 before being a first-round draft choice of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints.
Edward “Moose” Krause is one of four Notre Dame two-sport standouts to earn All-American honors in two sports. Krause was an All-America as a football tackle and as a basketball center. The Chicago native went on to a legendary career as Notre Dame’s director of athletics.
One of the best known two-sport standouts in early Notre Dame history was Johnny Mohardt, who teamed with George Gipp in the backfield during the 1920 championship season, captained the 1921 baseball squad and later played professionally in both sports. The native of nearby Gary, Ind., had the unique experience of being teammates with three sporting legends: Gipp, Red Grange and Ty Cobb.
The Knute Rockne era at Notre Dame featured several other multiple-sport stars, including the likes of Paul Castner. In addition to earning All-America honors as halfback on the 1921 and ’22 football teams, Castner was one of the hockey’s team’s most skilled players (he even served as a player-coach) and was an accomplished lefthanded pitcher who once tossed a no-hitter to beat Purdue. The St. Paul, Minn., native went on to pitch in the big leagues with the Chicago White Sox.
One of Castner’s teammates was two-time All-America right tackle Tom Lieb, who likewise was involved with the hockey program as the team’s coach from 1923-26. Lieb earlier had been credited with introducing the spin-style delivery in the shot put and won the NCAA competition in that event in both 1923 and ’24.
Several years before the arrival of Castner and Lieb, a talented athlete from Laurium, Mich., came to Notre Dame with the hopes of playing baseball. The future legend never had played organized football but impressed Rockne, who saw him casually drop-kicking footballs at a 70-yard clip. The rest was history, as Gipp went on to a fashion a career in college football that ended with his tragic death in 1920. Gipp’s story was romanticized as part of the movie “Knute Rockne All-American,” with Ronald Reagan playing the role of the young star. In a recent ranking by collegefootballnews.com, Gipp was rated the fourth-best player in college football history.
Four of Notre Dame’s seven Heisman Trophy winners distinguished themselves in other sports during their college days. Most notably, 1947 winner Johnny Lujack earlier had earned varsity monograms in football, basketball, track and baseball during his sophomore year (1943-44), becoming Notre Dame’s first four-sport letterwinner in more than 40 years (see other Heisman two-sport starts listed below).
Mike Brennan was a standout on both the football and lacrosse fields for the Irish. A highly regarded defenseman in the mid-1980’s for the lacrosse team, he played two seasons at tight end and two more on the offensive line for the Irish. He was a member of the 1988 national championship team and went on to a career in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals.
One of the more unique two-sport combinations in Notre Dame history has been the coupling of football and lacrosse. Mike Brennan came to Notre Dame as a highly-regarded lacrosse defenseman in the mid-1980s and lettered with the 1987 team. The Easton, Md., native also played two seasons as a tight end and then two more as an offensive lineman with the Notre Dame football squad, lettering as Andy Heck’s backup at left tackle during the 1988 national championship season before emerging as the starting left tackle for the ’89 team that went 12-1-0 and narrowly missed repeating as the national champs. Brennan went on to be a 4th-round draft pick of the Cincinnati Bengals and played three seasons in the NFL.
Most recently, Chad DeBolt was a three-year monogram winner in both lacrosse and football. Considered among the top face-off men in Notre Dame history, the Waterloo, N.Y., native appeared in 51 career games with the lacrosse team and was a member of the 2001 squad that made the program’s historic appearance in the NCAA semifinals. The reserve linebacker and football special-teams standout ended his career as a student-athlete by being named to the U.S. Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association’s Scholar All-America Team, completing the intensive dual-degree program that awarded him a degree in engineering and his MBA. DeBolt’s wide-reaching skills extended to the musical, serving as the lacrosse’s team designated bagpipe player who led the squad onto the field for each game.
Kevin Patrick was a top defensive midfielder with the Irish lacrosse team in the late 1980s, earning two letters while helping the 1988 squad become the program’s first to qualify for the NCAAs. The Schenectady, N.Y., native also was a four-year letterwinner as a defenseman on the Notre Dame hockey team, logging 102 games before ultimately pursuing a career in coaching (he currently is an assistant at the University of Wisconsin).
Former Notre Dame lacrosse midfielder Jimmy Keenan (Floral Park, N.Y.) – who was named an honorable mention All-American three times – also played a second sport during his undergraduate years, as a member of the Irish basketball team during the 1995-96 season.
Here’s a look at some other multi-sport athletes from Notre Dame’s storied tradition (please note that this group is by no means a complete listing but instead provides a sampling of the various multi-sport stars):
Ron Reed – One of 25 players recently named to the Notre Dame basketball All-Century Team (his 17.7 rebounds per game in ’63-’64 remain the team record), Reed also was a top pitcher for the Irish baseball squad and went on to play both sports on the top professional level. He spent two seasons with the NBA’s Detroit Pistons but truly made his mark in Major League Baseball, posting 140 wins, 103 saves and a 3.46 ERA in 18 big-league seasons that included winning the 1980 World Series (with the Philadelphia Phillies) and earning the win in the game when Henry Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home run record.
Four-Sport Stars – In addition to Lujack, Notre Dame’s history has included a handful of others who have lettered in four sports. The first to do so was Alfred Bergman, who earned 13 monograms in football, basketball, baseball and track from 1909-14. He was one of three Bergman brothers from Peru, Ind., who excelled in several sports at Notre Dame – with brother, Art lettering in three sports while Joe later excelled in football and baseball. Rupert Mills, a classmate of Alfred Bergman, also is considered among the top four-sport athletes in Notre Dame history, excelling in baseball, football, basketball and track before going on to play pro baseball with the Newark Federals.
Heisman Heroes – Lujack is joined by three other Heisman Trophy winners who starred in other sports at Notre Dame. Angelo Bertelli lettered with the 1943 Irish baseball team (as a catcher/first baseman) and also was reported to have scored four goals with the school’s hockey team (then operating as a club sport). Paul Hornung lettered as a top reserve with the 1954-55 basketball team while Tim Brown was Notre Dame’s recordholder in the 55-meters (6.23, in ’87) until Ismail broke his mark a few years later.
Diamonds in the Rough – Many others at Notre Dame have been top performers in baseball and football. Andy Pilney was an All-America halfback in 1935 and also shares the Notre Dame baseball record with three home runs in a game. Dick Rosenthal and Jim Gibbons were key members of both programs during the early 1950s and each returned to his alma mater in noteworthy positions: Gibbons as an assistant vice-president for protocol and Rosenthal as athletic director in the early 1990s. George Sefcik was a three-year starting halfback in football and is one of a handful of Irish baseball players ever to lead the team in batting average (.367), home runs (4) and RBI (23) for the same season (in ’62). Pitcher Dan McGinn still holds the Notre Dame record for career strikeout average (12.66 per 9 innings) and played three seasons with the Irish football team, lettering as a punter on the 1965 squad. Bob Arnzen, a three-year Academic All-American in basketball who recently was named to Notre Dame’s All-Century Team, also compiled a 3.30 ERA in 106 career innings as a pitcher with the Irish in the late-1960s. Quarterback Joe Theismann played a handful of games with the Notre Dame baseball team in 1970 and was a 39th-round draft pick of the Minnesota Twins in ’71. Flanker Pat Eilers scored a key touchdown in the 1988 win over Miami and lettered as an outfielder with the 1989 baseball team. His teammate Frank Jacobs caught a touchdown from his tight-end position in the Fiesta Bowl (capping the 1988 national championship season) and still holds the Irish baseball record for home runs in a season, with 20 in 1991. Tight end/outfielder Irv Smith was drafted in the early 1990s by both the NFL’s New Orleans Saints and MLB’s Houston Astros (he went on to play eight seasons of pro football). Paul Failla was a top backup quarterback for three seasons and was an all-conference shortstop as well, going to play in the California Angels system after being selected in the 3rd round of the ’94 draft. Speedy Scott Sollmann doubled as a football receiver and all-conference outfielder before playing several seasons in minor-league ball. Rich Sauget, Sr., was a quarterback and catcher at Notre Dame in the early 1960s before seeing his son Rich, Jr., be a tight end and top closer during his own two-sport career with the Irish (in the early 1990s).
Hoop Dreams – In addition to the others mentioned above, brothers Mike and Willie Townsend (from Hamilton, Ohio) were teammates on the Irish football and basketball teams. Mike was a consensus All-America defensive back for the 1973 national championship team and played two seasons as a reserve guard on the basketball team (from ’71-’73). His brother Willie was a letterwinning swingman during both of those basketball seasons and earned three monograms as a split end on the football team. Several years later, Joe Howard earned four letters as a split end and filled in for one season as a top guard on the 1983-84 basketball team. The early 1970s also saw Tom Hansen earn three letters as a baseball third baseman while playing as a guard on the first three basketball teams of the Digger Phelps era.
Staying on Track – Ismail is one of several Notre Dame football players who have earned All-America honors and posted record-setting marks in track and field. Cornerback Allen Rossum was a two-time All-American in the 55-meters (’95, ’97) and holds the Irish 60-meter record (6.68) while running back Randy Kinder was a 1994 All-American in the 200 meters (he holds than ND record, at 21.11). Receiver Bobby Brown is Notre Dame’s record-holder in the 400 meters (47.39), finishing as the 1998 BIG EAST runner-up in that event, and fullback Ryan Mihalko still holds the Irish javelin record of 222′-8” (set in 1990). Elmer Layden – the fullback on the famed 1924 Four Horsemen unit – and Jack Elder starred in football and track during the 1920s, as did Creighton Miller two decades later. The mid-1930s also featured a noteworthy basketball/track standout, as Don Elser was a three-year member of the hoops team who twice was the NCAA runner-up in the shot put (’35, ’36) while also placing 5th n the 220-yard hurdles (in ’36).
Chad DeBolt carried on the Irish tradition of leading the lacrosse team into action during his Irish career. The multi-talented DeBolt was one of the top face-off men in Notre Dame lacrosse history. On the football field, DeBolt was a reserve linebacker and special teams standout as he earned three monograms in both lacrosse and football.
Not Skating By – Castner’s time with the 1920s hockey teams included playing with a pair of goaltenders who had made names for themselves as All-America football players. One was another member of The Four Horsemen, halfback Jim Crowley, while the other was a offensive lineman “Hunk” Anderson (who later had the challenging task of following Rockne as coach of the Irish football team). When the hockey program returned to varsity status in the mid-1960s, many of the team’s players also were members of the football program, including: Leo Collins (a 1966 linebacker who played on the final club hockey team), forward Phil Wittliff (who came to Notre Dame as a scholarship quarterback) and defenseman Jim Blainey (who saw his career in both sports cut short by injuries). All-America defenseman Bill Nyrop (’74) actually earned one of the top quarterback spots during one spring season with the Irish football team and went on to play for three Stanley Cup championship teams with the Montreal Canadians. Recent hockey players who have pulled double duty include the aforementioned Patrick and forward Mike McNeill, who also lettered as a catcher on the 1985 baseball team.
Just for Kicks – Kevin Pendergast was one of the top forwards on Notre Dame’s 1989-92 men’s soccer teams, totaling 29 goals and 13 assists in 76 career games while earning 1992 team MVP honors. He shared the placekicking duties in the 1992 football opener at Northwestern before leaving the game early for a soccer game in Bloomington vs. the University of Indiana. Pendergast returned as a graduate student in 1993, serving as the starting placekicker in a season capped by his game-winning field goal vs. Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl. Five years later, a standout prep athlete by the name of Shane Walton joined the Irish soccer team and led the 1998 squad with 10 goals, earning all-conference and all-region honors. Walton later made a switch to football and went on to be an All-America cornerback in the 2002 season.
Female Firsts – A handful of female student-athletes have excelled in two sports at Notre Dame, most notably current fifth-year track-and-field participant Emily Loomis. Formerly a standout with the Irish volleyball team, Loomis also has turned in strong results as a high jumper and is the only student-athlete in Notre Dame history to earn all-BIG EAST honors in two distinctly different sports. Another former volleyball player, All-America outside hitter Christy Peters, returned for a fifth year of eligibility in 1995 and was a midfielder on the 1995 NCAA championship team. Another midfielder on that team, Holly Manthei, went on to become a four-year soccer All-American and the NCAA all-time leader in assists before returning for her own fifth year as a speedy member of the Notre Dame women’s lacrosse team (in 1998). Current freshman Beth Koloup is looking to duplicate Manthei’s two-sport performance on a four-year basis, as a member of the Irish women’s lacrosse and soccer programs.
Unique Combinations – Several other combinations have existed in the history of Notre Dame athletics. Recent Monogram Club president Mike Heaton was a punter/split end with the Irish football team and a member of the golf team during the mid-1960s. Another current member of the Monogram Club board, Christy Grady, was the student manager of the 1996-97 women’s basketball team who actually suited up and played in a handful of games for that injury-depleted team that went on to an historic appearance in the Final Four. Varsity athletes also have made their mark in the popular non-varsity events on campus, including Bookstore Basketball (football players such as Tom Clements, Rusty Lisch and Tony Hunter have been named that tournament’s MVP) and Bengal Bouts, which has showcased various football players battling in the upper divisions. The historic 1976 Bengal Bouts finals saw Doug Becker beat Jim Browner for the heavyweight title while Ross Browner outlasted Ken McAfee for the super-heavyweight crown – as the four Irish football stars thrilled a crowd of nearly 10,000 spectators that night at the Joyce Center.
Crossover Coaches – Rockne was well-respected at his alma mater as both a football and track-and-field coach, having participated in both sports during his playing days at Notre Dame. Rockne was credited with popularizing the forward pass during his playing days, latching onto balls thrown by Gus Dorais (who later served as coach of the Notre Dame baseball team). Jesse Harper, the football coach of Rockne and Dorais, also doubled in coaching the school’s baseball squad while other two-sport coaches of note have included George Keogan (basketball and baseball), Walt Langford (fencing and tennis) and Tom Fallon (wrestling and tennis).