Tommy Tremble Joins Famous Notre Dame Company
Every now and then, a Notre Dame football player achieves a distinction that is matched by some of the most hallowed names to play for the Fighting Irish.
That occurred with sophomore tight end Tommy Tremble in the 35-17 season-opening victory at Louisville on Monday night. Clinging to a 21-14 lead in the third quarter, Tremble — who was redshirted in 2018 — recorded his first career reception on a 26-yard touchdown from quarterback Ian Book on a well-executed seam. He finished the night with three receptions for 49 yards — and received the game ball.
The college debut was especially notable because it was the first game action for the Johns Creek, Ga., native since week 2 of his high school senior year in 2017, when a severe ankle injury sidelined him the balance of the campaign.
It also made him recognize how valued academics can be in case football doesn’t work out, and his work in the classroom helped the consensus three-star prospect earn offers from Ivy League schools Columbia, Dartmouth, Penn, Princeton and Yale.
Recruited primarily by offensive coordinator Chip Long, Tremble began to make an impression during the final two weeks this spring as a potential matchup problem for defenses because of his speed as a detached receiver to complement his 6-3, 235-pound frame.
“He doesn’t know what he’s doing — but he does it naturally, which is a good starting point,” deadpanned Long at the conclusion of spring. “He’s been really exciting for me, just the things we’ll be able to do with him in the fall if he keeps progressing the way he does.”
While Tremble wasn’t able to rack up pass-receiving numbers as a high school senior, the other data were enough to convince the staff to sign him over the likes of Michigan, UCLA and the home-state Georgia Bulldogs (where his father attended). His 4.63 40-yard time (plus 4.20 shuttle and 35.8-inch vertical jump) at The Opening Atlanta Regional was the best of any tight end in the country at any The Opening Event.
“He had crazy numbers [with] all this testing when we recruited him, and knew that it was just a matter of maturation, mostly off the field, as he kind of transitioned into college, balancing both football and academics,” said head coach Brian Kelly after Monday night’s victory. “As he's done that and become more comfortable with balancing both, he started to emerge as football player.”
While going through every single game since the start of Notre Dame football in 1887 would result in exhaustive research, we did go back over the past 50 years to see who else has caught a touchdown on his first career catch.
Current starting tight end Brock Wright almost did last season, but his touchdown at Wake Forest was his second reception, one week after nabbing a nine-yard gain versus Vanderbilt. Since 1969 and going backwards we have:
Torri Hunter Jr. (2014) —The son of the five-time Major League Baseball All-Star of the same name did not play as a 2013 freshman because of a broken leg.
As a sophomore, though, the future 2016 captain’s first career catch was a 13-yard touchdown from Everett Golson during a 31-15 win versus Syracuse. A severe concussion suffered in the 2016 opener at Texas helped him take a route toward baseball, and he is currently with the Los Angeles Angels’ organization.
Michael Floyd (2008) —In the opener versus San Diego State, the five-star freshman wideout tallied the first touchdown of the season on a 22-yard pass from sophomore Jimmy Clausen in the 21-13 win.
A 2012 first-round pick, his 271 career catches for 3,686 yards and 37 touchdown receptions are all easily career records at Notre Dame. T.J. Jones — who also caught a touchdown in his first career game as a freshman in 2010, but not on his first catch — is a distant second with 181 receptions.
Derrick Mayes (1992) —The future second-round pick and Super Bowl winner made his initial catch on a 38-yard touchdown as a freshman from backup quarterback Kevin McDougal at the start of the fourth quarter in a rout at Michigan State. Mayes’ score extended the lead to 52-10 in what would be a 52-31 victory.
Mayes went on to hold the career touchdown receptions record at Notre Dame before Jeff Samardzija in 2006 and Floyd in 2011 eclipsed it.
Derek Brown & Raghib “Rocket” Ismail (1988) — Both of these freshmen for the 1988 national champs didn’t record their first reception until the third game, a 52-7 drubbing of Purdue. The tight end Brown — a future first-round pick — made a leaping eight-yard grab of a Tony Rice pass in the first quarter, and then Ismail on a basic “go” route hauled in a 54-yard score from Rice in the second quarter.
Recent College Football Hall of Fame inductee Ismail would turn pro after his junior season.
Kevin Hart (1977) —The reserve tight end — and son of 1949 Notre Dame Heisman Trophy winner Leon Hart — capped the 49-19 slaughter of No. 5 USC in the original “Green Jersey Game” with a four-yard tally from fellow architect major Rusty Lisch. The Irish would go on to win the national title that season.
Pete Demmerle (1973 Orange Bowl) —Trailing 40-0 against Nebraska, the sophomore wideout’s first career reception was a five-yard score in the fourth quarter from classmate Tom Clements to avoid the shutout.
The next season Demmerle would be the leading receiver for the national champion Fighting Irish, and as a senior in 1974 the Rhodes Scholarship candidate would achieve consensus All-America notice.
Note: Fullback Larry Moriarty also scored a touchdown on his first career catch to open the 1981 season, but he had already had “touches” as a runner.