Best Notre Dame Players Missing From College Football Hall Of Fame
Yesterday the National Football Foundation announced the names of 11 players and two coaches from the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision who will be enshrined into the College Football Hall of Fame later this year.
Among them is 1990-93 Notre Dame offensive lineman and two-time consensus All-American (one of 16 and the most recent among the Fighting Irish) Aaron Taylor.
There have been about 5.4 million individuals who have played college football in its 151-year history, and only .0002 percent have made it into the Hall, plus 223 coaches. To appreciate just how difficult it is to achieve this, consider:
• It took Notre Dame’s 1990 Walter Camp Award winner and Heisman runner-up Raghib “Rocket” Ismail nearly 30 years before he was enshrined in 2019.
• It took 1978-81 Notre Dame linebacker and two-time consensus All-American Bob Crable six appearances on the College Football Hall of Fame ballot before he was enshrined in 2018.
• Even a Heisman Trophy winner such as Notre Dame’s John Huarte (1964) had to wait 41 years.
Among the criteria to be eligible:
• A player must have been named first-team All-American by an NCAA recognized source. Therefore, quarterback Joe Montana, an Associated Press honorable mention choice in 1978, is not eligible.
For that matter, neither is Brady Quinn — even though he finished fourth in the 2005 Heisman Trophy balloting and third in 2006. But he was a third-team AP All-American in 2005 (behind Matt Leinart and Vince Young) and second team in 2006 (behind Troy Smith).
• Not played a college game in at least 10 years. Thus, linebacker Manti Te’o, one of the most decorated players in college football history during the 2012 campaign, cannot be on the ballot until 2022 (if he is not in pro football).
• Played within the past 50 years. Consequently, several luminaries who played prior to 1970, including offensive lineman George Kunz, defensive tackle Mike McCoy or wide receiver Jim Seymour, are not listed.
• He can no longer be playing in the pros.
Three national title-winning and first-team All-American quarterbacks at Notre Dame — Terry Hanratty (1966), Tom Clements (1973) and Tony Rice (1988) — also are not in the Hall and unlikely to make it because of sheer numbers and statistics that are dwarfed by today’s game.
Other Fighting Irish luminaries from the past 50 years not inducted are two-time All-America defensive lineman Steve Niehaus (1974-75) and linebacker Michael Stonebreaker (1986-90), one of 16 two-time consensus All-Americans in the program’s annals.
However, in my humble opinion, these are the top four eligible Notre Dame players since 1970 who are not in the Hall:
1. Luther Bradley (1973, 1975-77)
Bradley has not been put on the ballot, an egregious oversight.
A freshman strong safety for the 1973 national champs — he led the team with six interceptions and 11 passes broken up — and a consensus All-America cornerback on the 1977 national champs, Bradley started all 46 games during his college career. He also received some first-team All-America recognition as a junior and as a sophomore.
His 17 career interceptions are the school record, and his 27 passes broken up are fourth. Not many have starred at two different positions on two national title teams, or earned All-America notice three different years.
2. Todd Lyght (1987-90)
Recruited to be 1987 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown’s successor in 1988 (a role Ismail took the following year), Lyght was shifted to defense, where he started two games at free safety his freshman year. He then started at corner as a sophomore for the 1988 national champs, and in 1989 he became a consensus All-American, highlighted by recording eight interceptions.
The following year as a senior he became one of 16 players in school history to earn two-time consensus All-America recognition. The 2015-19 Fighting Irish assistant made the ballot for the first time in 2015 and was on it most recently. He most likely will be the next from Notre Dame to be inducted.
3. Bob Golic (1975-78)
Second to Crable in career tackles (479, not including bowls) at Notre Dame, he was an AP and UPI second-team All-America for the 1977 national champs at middle linebacker and nose guard, and a consensus All-America pick in 1978 at middle linebacker. He has been on previous ballots.
In the 38-10 Cotton Bowl win over No. 1 Texas to win the national title, he was named Defensive MVP with 17 tackles and blocked a kick. He was powerful enough to line up at nose, yet fluid enough to play linebacker, including six career interceptions. He also was an All-American heavyweight wrestler.
4. Walt Patulski (1969-71)
Methinks there might be some revisionist bias here because the No. 1 overall selection in the 1972 NFL Draft did not pan out in the pro ranks. But this is strictly about college, and his resume is outstanding.
The ringleader on the 1970 unit that that finished No. 2 in the country after upsetting and holding No. 1 Texas to 11 points in the Cotton Bowl, Patulski also was credited with eight tackles for loss in the 3-0 win versus SEC champ LSU.
The next year he was a unanimous All-American — one of only 35 in Notre Dame history (including rover Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah this year) — won the Lombardi Award, and was ninth in the Heisman balloting as a defensive end.
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