Notre Dame’s All-Michigan Team
With the verbal commitment from Traverse City, Mich., four-star linebacker Joshua Burnham on St. Patrick’s Day, Notre Dame in 2022 could sign more than one player from the Wolverine State for the first time since 2016, when the defensive end trio of Daelin Hayes, Khalid Kareem and Ade Ogundeji all joined.
Earlier in the 2022 recruiting cycle the Fighting Irish received a pledge from Grand Rapids, Mich., four-star linebacker/athlete Nolan Ziegler.
By our count, 139 players from Michigan have seen action in a Notre Dame football uniform, and it ranks as our sixth-best state in producing the most talent for the Fighting Irish. Here’s our all-time All-Michigan team:
Quarterback: George Gipp (Laurium, 1917-20)
The first consensus and unanimous All-America selection in Notre Dame history (1920) was officially listed at “left halfback,” who in pre-T-formation days did much of the passing. While leading Notre Dame to an 18-0 record in 1919-20, Gipp completed 71 of his 134 passes (53 percent) at an extraordinary 20.2 yards per completion and 10.7 yards per attempt.
The dual-threat also paced the team in rushing those two years with 1,556 yards while averaging 7.5 yards per carry (his 8.1 yards per attempt in 1920 remains a single season Notre Dame record for players who carried at least 100 times).
The only other Fighting Irish quarterback from Michigan with more than two career starts was Terry Andrysiak (1984-87) with seven.
Running Backs: Jerome Bettis (Detroit, 1990-92) and Rodney Culver (Detroit, 1988-91)
Enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Bettis as just a sophomore fullback in 1991 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 between the tackles. His 32 catches averaged 13.4 yards and included six scores.
Culver had the power to play fullback and the speed to play tailback. He made an impact for the 1988 national champs as a freshman, including a TD in the national title game, 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 died in a plane crash that spring.
Running back is the most stocked position from Michigan. It includes “Jumpin’ Joe” Savoldi Jr. (Three Oaks, 1928-30), the top ground gainer for the 1929 national champs, top 1964 rusher Bill Wolski (Muskegon, 1963-65) with 657 yards and nine touchdowns, 1969-72 fullback John Cieszkowski (Detroit), 1977 national champion tri-captain Terry Eurick (Saginaw, 1974-77), 1993-96 speedster Randy Kinder (East Lansing), who led the team in rushing in both 1994-95, and future pro Jonas Gray (Beverly Hills, 2008-11).
Receivers: Jim Seymour (Berkley, 1966-68) and Jim Morse (Muskegon, 1954-56)
Seymour earned All-America notice each of his three varsity seasons before becoming the No. 10 overall selection in the 1969 NFL Draft. To open his career versus Rose Bowl champ Purdue, his 276 yards receiving (with three scores) is still a single-game Irish record. He helped clinch the national title that year with 11 catches for 150 yards and two more scores at USC.
A halfback in college where he rushed for 893 yards, Morse would fit well in the slot, where his 52 career catches averaged a whopping 21.2 yards.
Honorable mention notice to Javin Hunter (Orchard Lake Village, 1998-2001) and David Grimes (Detroit, 2005-08).
Tight End: Pete Chryplewicz (Sterling Heights, 1993-96)
In head coach Lou Holtz’s final season with the Irish, Chryplewicz paced the Irish in receiving with 27 catches for 331 yards and four scores before moving on to a three-year NFL career.
Honorable mention to Dom Vairo (Calumet), the captain of Elmer Layden’s first Notre Dame team in 1934.
Offensive Line: Heartley “Hunk” Anderson (Hancock, 1918-21), Joe Carollo (Wyandotte, 1959-61), George Goeddeke (Detroit, 1964-66), Tom McKinley (Kalamazoo, 1966-68) and Steve Elmer (Midland, 2013-15)
Anderson at guard was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1974 and classified by Knute Rockne as the toughest player pound for pound he had ever coached.
Right tackle Carollo was a second-round pick who played 12 years in the NFL, making the Pro Bowl in 1968.
Goeddeke bore a striking resemblance to “Mr. Clean” and received All-American notice for the 1966 national champs.
McKinley was a starting guard in 1967-68.
An early entrant in 2013, Elmer started several games as a freshman and was a full-time figure in 2014 and 2015 at guard before graduating in three years and moving on to a professional career beyond football.
Look for 2021 recruit Rocco Spindler (Clarkston) to crack this unit in a few years.
Defensive Line: Mike Kadish (Grand Rapids, 1969-71), Greg Marx (Redford, 1970-72), John Hankerd (Jackson, 1978-80) and Khalid Kareem (Detroit, 2016-19)
Marx totaled 263 stops, 24 for loss, earning consensus All-America notice in 1972 and becoming a second-round pick. Kadish was a first-round selection after nettting 212 career tackles, 18 for loss.
Three-year starter Hankerd had a productive career at end with 177 stops, 28 for lost yardage.
A team captain and Defensive MVP in 2019, Kareem recorded 108 career tackles, 26 for loss, 13 sacks and eight pass deflections. Classmates Hayes and Ogundeji also became captains and should begin their NFL careers this spring.
Special mention to tackle Paul Grasmanis (Jenison, 1992-95), who started his last two seasons at Notre Dame before playing 10 years in the NFL.
Linebackers: Greg Collins (Troy, 1972-74), Drew Mahalic (Farmington, 1972-74) and Scott Kowalkowski (Farmington Hills, 1987-90)
If the Burnham/Ziegler combination is as fruitful as Collins/Mahalic — who ennrolled together 50 years ago in 1971 — glory awaits. Collins was also a standout hockey player, while Mahalic played some quarterback as a freshman for the JV team when freshmen were not yet eligible for varsity play.
The fireball Collins notched a team high 133 stops in the regular season for the 1973 national champs and captained the top-ranked defense in 1974 (144 stops during the regular season), meriting second-team AP All-America notice and becoming a second-round draft pick.
Mahalic netted 253 tackles as a three-year starter and was a third-round selection.
Kowalkowski started at OLB for the supremely talented 1989-90 units and was an 11-year stalwart on special teams in the NFL.
Honorable mention to Joe Rudzinski (Farmington, 1979-82), who as a sophomore on the 1980 defense that set a school record for most consecutive quarters not allowing a TD (23) had 64 tackles (seven for lost yardage).
Defensive Backs: Todd Lyght (Flint, 1987-90), Clarence Ellis (Grand Rapids, 1969-71), Ralph Stepaniak (Alpena, 1969-71) and Reggie Barnett (Flint, 1972-74).
All four are corners, but Lyght and Ellis, both first-round picks, began their careers at safety.
Lyght started for the 1988 national champs and was a two-time consensus All-American in 1989-90 before becoming a Pro Bowl performer for the Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams.
Ellis recorded seven interceptions for the No. 2-ranked Irish in 1970 and was the Defensive MVP in the upset win over No. 1 Texas in the Cotton Bowl. He was a consenus All-American the next year.
Three-year starter Stepaniak was a classmate of Ellis and is tied for third on the all-time interception chart with 13.
Barnett also was a three-year starter, including the 1973 national champs, and was an Academic-All-American as a senior, when his last play was a game-saving interception in Irish territory to preserve the 13-11 Orange Bowl win over Alabama.
Honorable mention to Steve Lawrence (Ypsilanti, 1983-86), who recorded 10 interceptions and recovered nine fumbles (second most in school history) during his career, and as a safety was third in tackles as a junior with 92.
Kicker/Punter: Kyle Brindza (Canton, 2011-14) — Brindza kicked a single season school record 23 field goals in 2012 and his 20 in 2013 are third on the chart. He also handled punting and kickoffs.
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