The NFL Combine begins Tuesday in Indianapolis. Notre Dame’s top storyline there will be whether quarterback DeShone Kizer, who bypassed his senior season in 2017, can perform well enough to live up to many first-round projections that helped prompt him to turn pro early.
No college football program in the country has a richer quarterback tradition than Notre Dame. However, there isn’t any correlation to collegiate success with NFL prosperity for Irish quarterbacks.
National title quarterbacks Tom Clements (1973) and Tony Rice (1988) weren’t even drafted, nor was Kevin McDougal, who led the Irish to a No. 2 finish in 1993. The combination of Everett Golson and current Irish QB coach Tommy Rees helped Notre Dame to the 2012 BCS national title game, but neither was destined for an NFL career, nor drafted. Another national champion quarterback, Terry Hanratty (1966), was mainly a backup in the pros, as was 1964 Heisman Trophy winner John Huarte.
Conversely, two of the top four or five pro careers by Notre Dame quarterbacks came from figures who endured immense frustration on field at Notre Dame in their final season (much like Kizer), if not overall.
Daryle Lamonica was 12-18 at Notre Dame from 1960-62 and wasn’t selected until the 12th round in 1963. The five-time Pro Bowl pick also was a two-time AFL MVP. His 66-16-6 record as a starter for the Oakland Raiders was good for a .784 winning percentage. Only Otto Graham’s .810 is higher among QBs in NFL history — with current New England Patriots icon Tom Brady right behind Lamonica at .779.
From 1983-86, Notre Dame four-year starter Steve Beuerlein was 22-18 as the starter, including 5-6 marks each of his last two seasons. Yet he had a strong 14-year NFL career, including a Pro Bowl selection and winning a Super Bowl ring as Troy Aikman's backup in Dallas.
Thus, the 4-8 ledger produced by Notre Dame with Kizer at the throttle in 2016 should have little bearing on what he achieves in the NFL, unless he steps into a traditionally awful situation. (Cleveland, anyone?)
Joe Montana is far and away the most prominent Notre Dame quarterback to strike gold in the NFL, leading the San Francisco 49ers to four Super Bowl titles in the 1980s while earning MVP honors in three of them. Timing was everything for him because Bill Walsh was hired as the the head coach there the same year Montana was drafted. Because he was considered relatively slight of frame without a big arm, Montana wasn’t selected until the final pick of the third round in the 1979 draft, behind three other quarterbacks: first-round choices Jack Thompson (No. 3 overall), Phil Simms (No. 7) and Steve Fuller (No. 23).
Another Super Bowl champion from Notre Dame, Joe Theismann, was the seventh quarterback chosen in the 1971 draft, in the fourth round.
Since 1950, five Notre Dame quarterbacks (not including Paul Hornung, who was chosen as a running back after winning the Heisman on a 2-8 team) have been picked in the first round, but none had a stellar NFL career. Here’s a review, based on who was taken the highest:
1. Rick Mirer, No. 2 pick in 1993
Selected behind Washington State QB Drew Bledsoe, Mirer had a decent rookie year with the Seattle Seahawks but ended up playing with five teams in eight NFL seasons, posting a 24-44 (.363) record as a starter. He passed for 11,969 yards in his career while tossing 50 touchdowns and 76 interceptions.
2. George Izo, No. 2 pick in 1960
Taken behind LSU Heisman Trophy winner Billy Cannon, Izo played for four franchises in seven NFL seasons, and is credited with a 3-3 record as a starter, a 41.6 pass completion rate, 12 touchdowns and 32 interceptions. He is one of 11 QBs in NFL history to complete a 99-yard scoring pass.
3. Bob Williams, No 2 pick in 1951
The quarterback of the 1949 national champs held the single-season passing efficiency mark at Notre Dame before Jimmy Clausen broke it 60 years later. Taken between future top NFL names Kyle Rote and Y.A. Tittle, Williams played only three seasons, throwing for 981 yards, 10 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
4. Ralph Guglielmi, No. 4 pick in 1955
He had a 26-3-1 record (.883) as the starter at Notre Dame, leading the Irish to three straight top-five finishes in 1952-54, but was only 7-16-3 (.327) with four different teams in seven NFL seasons. Guglielmi and Williams are both enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. Williams passed away last year, and Guglielmi this Jan. 23.
5. Brady Quinn, No. 22 pick in 2007
Although No. 1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell was the only quarterback taken ahead of him, Quinn’s plummet all the way to the 22nd pick was a top storyline of the draft 10 years ago. In three seasons at Cleveland, he threw for 1,902 yards, 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions before getting traded to the Denver Broncos. During his eight-year career he also had stops at Kansas City, the New York Jets and St. Louis Rams.
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