Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football And New Jersey Quarterbacks
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Notre Dame And New Jersey Quarterbacks

When it comes to Notre Dame quarterbacks, Pennsylvania and California are the most famous states in production.

Pennsylvania has contributed national champions such as John Lujack, Terry Hanratty, Tom Clements and Joe Montana, in addition to four-year starter Ron Powlus.

Since 1960, California has had the most starters at Notre Dame with eight, most recently three-year starter Ian Book, who helped lead the Irish into two College Football Playoff appearances the past three years.

Ohio is quite prominent with three first-rounders in Ralph Guglielmi (also in the College Football Hall of Fame), George Izo and Brady Quinn, plus second-round choice DeShone Kizer in 2017.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish football quarterback Joe Theisman
Joe Theismann had a superb Notre Dame career before becoming an NFL MVP and Super Bowl winner. (Notre Dame Archives)

A number of different states good vie for the fourth spot, and a good case can be made for New Jersey. Recent Fighting Irish 2022 verbal Steve Angeli from Bergen Catholic in Oradell, N.J., is next in line.

Perusing the Notre Dame archives, Angeli would become the 11th native from the Garden State to take snaps at quarterback for the Irish, beginning with Charles Daly (Patterson) in 1899, although only three were actual starters.

As a senior in 1975, Frank Allocco (New Providence) was in line to be the starter before an injury sidelined him.

Here are our half-dozen most memorable quarterbacks from New Jersey to play at Notre Dame:

6. Gus Ornstein (Tenafly, 1994)

He played only his freshman year behind Powlus and Tom Krug, completing 2 of 5 passes for 21 yards with a touchdown and an interception, but he did provide good copy.

One, as a member of the Jewish faith, Ornstein wondered how he would fit in at a Catholic school. Notre Dame head coach Lou Holtz pointed to the Golden Dome to remind Ornstein how the campus puts so much of its faith and worship into the hands of a venerated Jewish woman.

Second, well-respected NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. out of nowhere projected Ornstein as a potential first-round pick. His cohort at the time, Joe Theismann (more on him later) disagreed.

“Mel was out to lunch on that one,” Theismann responded.

After playing some at Michigan State in 1996-97, Ornstein did get a tryout with the Indianapolis Colts … but Peyton Manning was the future there.

5. Pete Graham (Rumson, 1986-89)

He completed 6 of 8 passes for 90 yards in his career, and also ran for a touchdown.

What earns this ranking is Graham found a vital role as the holder for kicker Reggie Ho (and sometimes Billy Hackett) for the 1988 national champs. Ho’s four field goals proved to be the difference in the 19-17 win over Big Ten champ Michigan, and he also was perfect in the 31-30 triumph versus No. 1 Miami. He always credited Graham and long snapper Tim Grunhard for his success, along with all the blockers, of course.

4. Matt LoVecchio (Franklin Lakes, 2000-01)

He enjoyed the best-ever freshman season by a Notre Dame QB, taking over a 2-2 outfit in 2000 and finishing the regular season 7-0 and earning a bid to the Fiesta Bowl versus Oregon State.

During that stretch he completed 58.4 percent of his passes for 980 yards with 11 touchdowns and only one interception, and added 300 rushing yards. The Irish were clobbered 41-9 by Oregon State in the Fiesta and the next season he lost his job to classmate Carlyle Holiday, eventually prompting a transfer to Indiana University.

3. Brandon Wimbush (Teaneck, 2015-18)

Although his career was overshadowed by losing his starting job to Book in 2018, Wimbush was an integral figure in Notre Dame’s turnaround from the 4-8 debacle in 2016.

He took over as the starter in 2017 and propelled victories over three teams that finished in the top 25: Michigan State, USC and North Carolina State, performing superbly in all of them. The next season with a built offensive line and backfield, the team leaned on him in the Michigan opener and he received the game ball in the 24-17 victory.

He finished 13-3 as a starter during a revival period, passing for 2,606 yards with 22 touchdowns, and rushing for 1,156, highlighted by a school-record 14 touchdowns by a quarterback in 2017.

2. Frank Tripucka (Bloomfield, 1945-48)

Although many Notre Dame faithful might be more familiar with his All-American son — and two-time NBA All-Star — Kelly Tripucka’s basketball career at Notre Dame, the father was quite distinguished as well.

He started only his senior at quarterback while working behind Heisman winner Lujack the previous two seasons, and helped continue the four-year unbeaten streak the Irish had from 1946-49 with the 9-0-1 finish in 1948.

Tripucka had enough of a prominent 15-year pro career that Manning called him to ask if he may don his No. 18 with the Denver Broncos after it had been retired in Tripucka’s honor.

Until guard Quenton Nelson in 2018, no Notre Dame player from New Jersey had been selected higher in the NFL Draft than Tripucka at No. 9 in 1949.

1. Joe Theisman (South River, 1968-70)

The Heisman runner-up his senior year and College Football Hall of Fame inductee was a supreme field general, a future Super Bowl champ, NFL MVP and he also became the first Notre Dame QB to rush for more than 1,000 yards during his career.

He originally had committed to North Carolina State before selecting the Irish, who had missed out on their top targets and “settled” for the relatively frail-looking 150-pound prospect at the time

Not one of his starting offensive lineman or running backs or tight ends in 1970 played in the NFL, yet that team still holds the NCAA record for plays per game (92.4) and the school record for yards per game (510.5). That says a lot about how much Theismann meant.

In his final game with the Fighting Irish at the 1971 Cotton Bowl, he threw a 26-yard touchdown pass and ran for three- and 14-yard scores to help the Irish defeat No. 1 Texas 24-11, snapping the Longhorns’ 30-game winning streak.



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