With the addition of Ridgley, Md., defensive tackle Ja’Mion Frankllin as Notre Dame’s 12th verbal commit for the 2018 recruiting cycle, the Fighting Irish continued their recent regeneration in the Maryland/Washington D.C. area when it comes to landing football prospects.
In 2013 they signed cornerback Devin Butler (Washington D.C., Gonzaga Prep), who is using his fifth season at Syracuse. Butler was followed in 2014 by current starting center Sam Mustipher (Olney, Md.), junior safety/corner Ashton White (Clinton, Md) from Bishop McNamara in 2015, and defensive end Kofi Wardlow from D.C.’s Saint John’s College this past winter.
Franklin is hardly the lone target from Maryland in the current class. The Irish staff also is invovled with a couple of four-star defensive linemen: Thomas Booker from Baltimore’s Gilman School and P.J. Mustipher, Sam’s brother who plays for McDonogh in Owings Mills. Md.
By our count, 44 players from Maryland/Washington D.C. have seen football action in Notre Dame football history. With Notre Dame joining the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2013 (including partial membership in football), recruiting in that corridor of the country ostensibly has heightened. Even prior to that, Notre Dame played its 2011 Shamrock Series game just outside of Washington D.C, versus Maryland.
In men’s basketball, the Washington D.C. area easily would rank No. 1 over the last 50 years in Notre Dame annals, from Bob Whitmore to Hall-of-Fame luminaries Austin Carr and Adrian Dantley, to more recent starting guards Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant — and especially now 2017 top 50 recruit/forward D.J. Harvey (Hyattsville) from traditional superpower DeMatha and 2018 guard Prentiss Hubb, another top 50 prospect from D.C.’s Gonzaga.
Football hasn’t had similar star power, but the numbers have been pretty good even though it would seem Notre Dame would have more presence with the Catholic powers such as DeMatha, Gonzaga, St. Albans, Bishop McNamara, Archbishop Carroll, Good Counsel, etc.
Here are our top 10 Notre Dame football players from Maryland/Washington D.C. — with Sam Mustipher a good bet to crack the top 10 by the end of his career.
1. Thom Gatewood (Baltimore, 1969-71) & Bob Williams (Baltimore, 1948-50)
Both have been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, Williams in 1988 and Gatewood in 2015. Both also were long-time record holders at their respective positions.
The two-time All-American and Academic All-American Gatewood’s 157 career receptions (not including eight catches for 155 yards and two scores in two Cotton Bowls versus No. 1 Texas) stood for 36 years and is still tied for sixth all time at Notre Dame. He also became the school’s first African-American football captain.
Williams, who died in May 2016 at age 86, was at the throttle for the 10-0 national champs in 1949 when he set the single season pass efficiency record that stood 60 years before Jimmy Clausen eclipsed it by an eyelash in 2009. Three years later, Everett Golson matched Williams’ standard of winning his first 10 starts, although Golson needed more help. Williams was the No. 2 pick in the 1951 NFL Draft.
3. Victor Abiamiri (Randallstown, 2003-06)
Started 30 games and was named Notre Dame’s Lineman of the Year his last two seasons when the team was 19-6 and had back-to-back BCS bids. Forty of his 128 career tackles were for lost yardage, including 20.5 sacks, leading him to become a second-round pick.
4. Malcolm Johnson (Washington D.C. 1995-98)
Huge target at 6-5, Johnson finished with 110 catches that averaged 15.8 yards and included 10 scores. He was only 16 years old the first day he practiced at Notre Dame, and would go on to play three years in the NFL.
5. Mike Brennan (Severna Park, 1986-89)
One of the great walk-on stories in school history, Brennan began his career in lacrosse, tried out at tight end in football, and worked his way up to start at guard twice for the 1988 national champs (including No. 1 Miami) and all 13 at left tackle for the 12-1 outfit in 1989. The fourth-round pick played three years in the NFL.
6. Mike Creaney (Towson, 1970-72)
Three year starting tight end was good enough that College and Pro Football Hall of Fame member Dave Casper was used at offensive tackle in 1971-72, where he was more needed. Including bowls, Creaney’s 48 career receptions averaged 19.1 yards, a remarkable figure for anyone, but especially tight end.
7. Joe Howard (Clinton, 1981-84)
Nicknamed “Small Wonder,” the 5-9, 167-pound Howard burst onto the scene as a freshman with 17 catches, including a record 96-yard touchdown catch. As a senior he also started at point guard for Digger Phelps’ basketball team. His 85 career catches averaged 19.6 yards and he also had a six-year NFL career despite not getting drafted.
8. Andre Jones (Hyattsville, 1987-90)
The father of 2010-13 Irish receiver TJ Jones passed away suddenly in 2011 from a brain aneuyrism. During his career at outside linebacker, he recorded 147 career tackles, with his 58 as a senior the second most on the team. Jones had brief stints in the NFL and CFL.
9. Troy Wilson (Frederick, 1983-86)
As a freshman, his pass breakup of a Doug Flutie pass on fourth down preserved a 19-18 Liberty Bowl victory versus 9-2 Boston College. He started the next three years at corner prior to playing one year in the NFL and joining the Secret Service.
10. John Owens (Bowie, 1998-2001)
He didn’t start his first three seasons from 1998-2000 while yo-yoing between defensive end and tight end. As a senior he started at tight end on a 5-6 team and caught only five passes …yet the fifth-round pick went on to play nine years in the NFL. Tight ends seem to have a Midas touch at Notre Dame.
Among our honorable mentions, running back Gerry Gray (Baltimore) led the 1959 team in rushing, Randy Payne (Palmer Park) started at corner for Ara Parseghian’s top-ranked defense in 1974, Ricky Gray (Mt. Ranier) complemented Mark Bavaro well at tight end in 1984, Jeremy Akers (Washington D.C.) started at guard much of his three seasons from 1994-96, Abiamiri’s teammate at Baltimore Gilman, Ambrose Wooden, started at corner for the 2005 team that finished No. 9 in the AP poll, and defensive end Justin Brown (Clinton) was a starter in 2007-08.