Notre Dame/Chicago: A Natural Match
No single city in the United States has produced more Notre Dame football icons and sheer volume to the school than Chicago and its outlying suburbs.
Gurnee, Ill., four-star wide receiver Micah Jones (6-5, 196) added to that tradition with his verbal commitment this Friday.
Approximately 230 football players from Chicago have suited up and played at Notre Dame. The formation of an All-Chicago Notre Dame team might be the best single all-around representation of any city for the Irish. Here is our selections:
Backfield/Receivers: Tommy Rees (2010-13), Tom Carey (1951-54), John Lattner (1951-53), Elmer Angsman (1943-45), Knute Rockne (1911-13) and Dan Shannon (1952-54)
First-year Notre Dame quarterbacks coach Rees is the lone true full-time starting quarterback from Chicago or its outlying suburbs. The Irish won 23 of his 31 career starts, but he was especially renowned as a fireman out of the bullpen who led a strong finish in 2010 as a freshman and aided the 12-0 regular season in 2012. He finished his career with 7,679 yards passing with 61 touchdowns.
Carey split time with College Football Hall of Fame inductee Ralph Guglielmi while earning monograms all four years and helping the Irish to three top-4 finishes. Carey also was good enough to be ahead of 1956 Heisman winner Paul Hornung at quarterback, leading the Golden Boy to play fullback his sophomore year.
Lattner, the 1953 Heisman Trophy recipient, is the most decorated Notre Dame player to come from the city, and joins Florida’s Tim Tebow as college football's lone two-time recipients of the Maxwell Award. He was perhaps even more renowned on defense (13 career interceptions) than at running back, and one could also split him out wide. His 39 receptions averaged 15.7 yards and included eight touchdowns.
They didn't come tougher than Angsman, the leading rusher in 1945 who averaged 7.1 yards per carry. Early in a game that year against Navy, Angsman lost 11 teeth after getting a flying elbow delivered into his mouth from his blind side. He went to the sidelines to get treatment for the streaming blood — and then played the remaining 54 of a possible 60 minutes on offense and defense in the 6-6 slugfest. Later he was part of the "Dream Backfield" for the 1947 NFL champion Chicago Cardinals.
Rockne served as the team captain for the unbeaten 1913 Irish while earning third-team All-America notice from Collier's on a team that put the football program on the national map. His pass catching prowess while snaring aerials from quarterback Gus Dorais propelled a 35-13 upset of superpower Army and helped revolutionize the game. Oh, and he later discovered coaching was in his blood, too.
Shannon — whose grandson John is now the starting long-snapper for the Irish — likewise served as a team captain and received second-team All-America notice (Sporting News). He was noted as an even more devastating tackler than the fact that he averaged nearly 20 yards per reception during his career.
Offensive Line/Tight End: Zygmont "Ziggy" Czarobski (1942-43, 1946-47), Bill "Moose" Fischer (1945-48), George Trafton (1919), Tim Grunhard (1986-89). Bert Metzger (1928-30) and Ed "Moose" Krause (1930-33)
The "City of Brother Shoulders" was best manifested at Notre Dame with the linemen that have enrolled here.
Chronologically, it began with Trafton, who was the center on Rockne's first unbeaten team that was led by halfback George Gipp. He is credited as the first center in history to snap with one hand, and from 1920-32 he became one of the elite players during the NFL's infancy, earning Pro Football Hall of Fame honors.
Czarobski and Fischer helped anchor Notre Dame's glory years in the 1940s at tackle and guard, respectively — and both are enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. Czarobski was also renowned as a comedian who brought levity to practices run by the martinet Leahy.
Fischer especially is renowned for starting as a 19-year-old sophomore on the 1946 national champions that featured World War II veterans back on the home front who were several years his senior.
Metzger was on Rockne's 1929 and 1930 national champs and joined Czarobski and Fischer in the Hall of Fame in 1982.
Grunhard was signed in Lou Holtz's first recruiting class at Notre Dame (1986) and became the embodiment of the team's toughness during a school record 23-game winning streak his junior and senior seasons. In the NFL he started for a decade at center in Kansas City, and his son Colin will be a preferred walk-on at Notre Dame this year.
Krause, known as “Mr. Notre Dame” was listed as a tackle throughout his career, but in this case he would be a classic tight end with his combination of size and mobility. Although he was a football All-American, Krause was one of the first of the dominant big men in college basketball history, a sport in which he was a rare three-time consensus All-American and was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1976.
Defensive Line: George Connor (1946-47), Chris Zorich (1987-90), Bryant Young (1990-93), and Renaldo Wynn (1993-96)
Connor not only was the first recipient of the Outland Trophy, but he is one of only six Notre Dame players inducted into both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame, joining Wayne Millner, Hornung, Alan Page, Dave Casper and Tim Brown. He also helped revolutionize the linebacker position in the NFL when he was moved there to combine his speed with his 6-3 frame. The famed sportswriter Grantland Rice said ''Connor is the closest thing to a Greek god since Apollo.''
Zorich originally enrolled at Notre Dame as a linebacker, but by his sophomore year he became a centerpiece at nose tackle with his ferocity and production during an Irish renaissance that led to a surprising national title. Even before reaching age 40, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Young also enrolled as an outside linebacker, but he too started along the line by his sophomore year, helped propel a 17-game winning streak and is the highest defensive line draft pick from Notre Dame (No. 7 overall) in the last 40 years. The four-time All-Pro pick enjoyed a stellar 15-year pro career.
From DeLaSalle, where Krause also attended, Wynn likewise started out at linebacker before becoming a first-round NFL selection along the line.
Linebackers: Tony Furjanic (1982-85), Mark Zavagnin (1979-82) and Darius Fleming (2008-11)
Furjanic is the sixth all-time leading tackler at the school (361). His 147 tackles in 1985 and 142 in 1983 remain the two highest single season totals at Notre Dame the past 30 years.
Zavagnin recorded 332 stops, recovered eight fumbles, broke up 10 passes and intercepted seven. The 1980 defense went a school-record 23 quarters without allowing a touchdown.
A 36-game starter as a hybrid outside linebacker/end, Fleming was selected in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Defensive Backfield: Nick Rassas (1963-65), Tony Carey (1963-65), Stan Smagala (1986-89) and Tom Zbikowski (2004-07)
Rassas, a walk-on from Loyola Academy in Cook County, and Carey, the younger brother of quarterback Tom, was a Mount Carmel product. They converted from running back and quarterback, respectively, to become playmakers in the Irish secondary during the resurrection campaign in 1964 under first-year head coach Ara Parseghian, with Carey intercepting eight passes. Rassas became a consensus All-American in 1965 with six interceptions for a school record 197 yards, and also led the nation in punt returns with 459 yards, a 19.1 average and three scores.
From the same high school as offensive lineman Grunhard (St. Laurence), the unheralded Smagala became a three-year starter at cornerback during another revival stage at Notre Dame in the late 1980s. Another Chicago native, strong safety George Streeter, teamed with Smagala on the '88 championship squad.
Zbikowski recorded 300 tackles during his career, the most ever by an Irish defensive back, and scored six touchdowns on interception, fumble or punt returns.
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