Notre Dame’s Best From Minnesota
For the third time in head coach Brian Kelly’s 11 years at Notre Dame, a recruit from Minnesota has committed to the Fighting Irish and is expected to sign this December.
Joe Alt, listed at tight end but projected to shift to offensive tackle due to his 6-7, 255-pound frame, is from the city of Fridley, where he stars for Totino Grace High. The previous two were linebacker James Onwualu (2013), who played receiver as a freshman, and offensive tackle Quinn Carroll (2019), sidelined as a freshman last year after tearing an ACL in preseason workouts.
At the turn of the century, Minnesota had become a fertile recruiting state for the Fighting Irish because of the Cretin-Derham Hall pipeline to Notre Dame that included fullback Rashon Powers-Neal (2001), tight end Marcus Freeman (2002), offensive tackle Ryan Harris (2003), wide receiver Michael Floyd (2008) and Onwualu (2013).
In 2003 alone, when former Irish assistant Greg Mattison was the prime recruiter in the North Star State, Notre Dame signed Minnesota’s three best prospects: Harris, defensive tackle Trevor Laws and tight end John Carlson.
By our count, 70 players from Minnesota have seen action for the Fighting Irish, which led to us ranking the state No. 14 in a survey we did several years ago on top states to impact the Notre Dame program.
Here are our top dozen players to hail from the state:
11. (tied) Mike Doughty (Elko, 1993-97) and Mark LeVoir (Eden Prairie, 2001-05)
Doughty was a four-year starter at offensive tackle after redshirting as a freshman.
Like Alt, the 6-7 LeVoir was listed as a tight end recruit, but was quickly shifted to the offensive line, where he started at both guard and tackle over his final 37 games and parlayed it into a five-year NFL career.
10. Rod Smith (St. Paul, 1988-91)
A running back recruit, he became a starter at corner and strong safety his final two seasons prior to a seven-year NFL career. As the No. 35 overall pick in the 1992 NFL Draft, he was the second-highest Irish selection from the state of Minnesota, behind our No. 1.
9. Bob Wetoska (Minneapolis, 1956-58)
He started at end for the Irish before a prominent 10-year career with the Chicago Bears at tackle, including starting for the 1963 NFL champions.
8. Pat Eilers (St. Paul, 1987-89)
A walk-on who transferred from Yale after his freshman year, Eilers first helped at safety and special teams before becoming a co-starter with Ricky Watters at flanker in 1988 (scoring the go-ahead touchdown versus No. 1 Miami in the 31-30 victory) and then starting every game in 1989.
After contributing to the school-record 23-game winning streak and most recent national title, he also played six seasons in the NFL despite not getting drafted.
7. John Carlson (Litchfield, 2003-07)
Yet another stalwart at “Tight End U,” he was a second-team Sports Illustrated All-American in 2006 and nabbed 100 passes during his career before becoming a second-round draft pick.
6. Ed Degree (St. Cloud, 1920-22)
The first of three Minnesota All-American linemen (guard) for head coach Knute Rockne. He received first-team notice from what would become the UPI.
5. Ted Twomey (Duluth, 1928-29)
This second-team Associated Press All-American tackle was part of Rockne’s unbeaten national champs in 1929 that didn’t play a game at home because Notre Dame Stadium was under construction.
4. Art “Bud” Boeninger (St. Paul, 1925-26)
He is the sole consensus Notre Dame All-American from Minnesota, achieving the feat while lining up at center on Rockne’s 9-1 team in 1926.
3. Trevor Laws (Apple Valley, 2003-07)
Amidst the 3-9 rubble in 2007, Team MVP Laws was amazing at defensive tackle with 112 stops (eight for loss, four sacks, plus three blocked kicks), one short of the school record by a lineman set by Steve Niehaus in 1975.
He also totaled 112 tackles his first three years and started all 37 games his last three en route to becoming a second-round draft pick.
2. Ryan Harris (St. Paul, 2003-06)
Started all 45 games he played in, beginning with his final eight games at right tackle as a true freshman. He then started all 37 games his final three seasons at left tackle, with back-to-back BCS bids his final two years.
In 2008 with the Denver Broncos he was named Sports Illustrated All-Pro, and started at left tackle for the 2016 Super Bowl champion Broncos before retiring a year later.
1. Michael Floyd (St. Paul, 2008-11)
Notre Dame’s lone first-round selection from Minnesota, Floyd easily holds the school career marks in catches (271, which is 90 more than anyone else), receiving yards (3,686, which is nearly 1,000 more than anyone else) and touchdown receptions (37, which is 10 more than anyone else).
Our honorable mention list would include Onwualu, whose terrific 2016 season as a captain was overshadowed by a 4-8 record.
Paul Castner (St. Paul, 1920-22) started at fullback as a senior and pitched for the Chicago White Sox the following year.
A lot of multiple-year starters along the line have come from Minnesota, including Bronko Nagurski (International Falls, 1956-58) and Gary Kos (Minneapolis, 1968-70) on offense, and Eric Norri (Virginia, 1966-68) on defense.