The state of Michigan has had a wonderful history with Notre Dame football, ranking No. 6 on our all-time list among the best states to contribute to the team.
Approximately 140 players from there have suited up for the Irish, with 1916-20 halfback George Gipp (Laurium) perhaps the most famous. In the 2016 recruiting class, head coach Brian Kelly’s staff signed three defensive ends from Michigan: Daelin Hayes (Belleville), Khalid Kareem (Pontiac) and Ade Ogundeji (West Bloomfield).
However, the largest city in the state, Detroit, has not always been the most productive area for the Fighting Irish. Thus, receiving a verbal commitment this week from Cass Tech cornerback Kalon Gervin was a significant first-time feat after unsuccessfully recruiting at that high school in recent years.
Who are Notre Dame’s greatest players to come from Detroit?
We put together a top 5 — with a caveat: They have to be listed directly from the city, not suburbs. There are a plethora of former Notre Dame stars from the Detroit suburbs, including 1966-68 receiver Jim Seymour (Berkley), 1998-2001 wideout Javin Hunter (Orchard Lakes) and 1993-96 tight end Pete Chryplewicz (Sterling Heights).
The defensive list is even more impressive with 1970-72 lineman Greg Marx (Redford), starting linebackers Greg Collins (Troy) and Drew Mahalic (Farmington) for the 1973 national champs, and 1987-90 linebacker Scott Kowalkowski (Farmington Hills), who played 11 years in the NFL.
However, when we’re strictly talking coming from the city of Detroit, here are our top 5 from the last 60 years, with the high school listed:
5. David Grimes (St. Martin DePorres, 2005-08)
Now in his fifth year on Notre Dame's strength and conditioning staff, Grimes quietly caught 90 passes for 900 yards and seven touchdowns (plus a magnificent diving grab in the end zone taken away in a 2007 victory at Stanford), and ran for another, during his career. He was the valedictorian at his high school.
4. John Cieszkowski (University of Detroit High, 1969-72)
As a co-starter at fullback — remember that position? — for three seasons, “Cisco” carried 196 times for 840 yards and nine touchdowns during his Notre Dame career before getting drafted by the Chicago Bears. He led the team in rushing in the 1971 Cotton Bowl win versus No. 1 Texas (13 carries, 52 yards) and was the second-leading rusher on the team the following year. He went on to become a cardiologist in his home area.
3. George Goeddeke (St. David, 1963-66)
Often referred to as “Mr. Clean” for his clean-shaven head and rangy, strong frame, Goeddeke took over as the starting center in 1965 and earned All-America notice from numerous outlets during the 1966 national champion season, including second team on UPI and third team on AP. The 59th overall pick in the 1967 NFL Draft played six years in the league and was, to say the least, a colorful character on campus, including driving a hearse.
2. Rodney Culver (St. Martin DePorres, 1988-91)
A state champion sprinter, Culver still had the power to play fullback and the speed to play tailback. He made an impact for the 1988 national champs, including a TD in the title game (Fiesta Bowl versus West Virginia), led the star-studded backfield of 1990 in rushing with 710 yards, and was the team’s lone captain in 1991. Culver was in his fifth season in the NFL in 1996 when he and his wife tragically perished in a plane crash that spring.
1. Jerome Bettis (Mackenzie 1990-92)
Before finishing his Pro Football Hall of Fame career “The Bus” starred at Notre Dame. He confidently donned an “All-World” jacket at Mackenzie and backed it up in the coming years.
As a sophomore fullback in 1991 he romped for 972 yards rushing during the regular season with 16 TDs, and added 150 and three more scores in the Sugar Bowl upset of No. 3 Florida. He turned pro after his junior season and finished his Irish career averaging a remarkable 5.7 yards per carry while running mainly between the tackles. His 32 catches averaged 13.4 yards and included six more scores.
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