Notre Dame’s Top Five All-Time Quarterbacks
Notre Dame's Top Five All-Time Quarterbacks
When trying to pick out the five best all-time position players at any school with a long competitive history in that sport, you are bound to have conflicts. But when the school is Notre Dame, the sport is football, and the position is quarterback, the task seems darn near impossible.
Not only is Notre Dame's 125-year pigskin history arguably the tale of the most storied collegiate sports team ever, but the quarterback slot has long been the sport's most highlighted spot, and here Notre Dame has been no exception.
Four of the Fighting Irish's record seven Heisman Trophy's have been won at this position, and few of its eleven National Championships have been won without at least an All-American at that spot.
Which makes our top pick all the more amazing...
Before I fill you in on the judging criteria for this tough Top Five list, I'll first say that statistics were perhaps the least important data.
Judging the passing stats of current college QBs against those who played in the forties or fifties is pure folly, for not only do the teams now play twelve or thirteen games instead of nine or ten, but the sophisticated offenses of the current day are much more geared to a higher completion percentage.
So while my top five were all (except perhaps my top choice) rated great passers for their era, they were more importantly great leaders and great winners. Three of the four ND Heisman winners made it, four of the five won at least one National Championship, and the other probably should have.
And the top spot was a duel between a two-way player whose last championship team never trailed, and a former third-string ringer with a penchant for comebacks...
#5 John Huarte
If ever there was a Cinderella story in Notre Dame's history, it was the 1964 season led by John Huarte. Huarte considered transferring after receiving little playing time his first two seasons, until new coach Ara Parseghian turned the accurate Huarte from a pumpkin into a Heisman-winning prince, and the team from an ugly 2-7 step-daughter into a 9-1 contender that would have won the National Championship if not for a blown call at USC. Huarte completed 114 of 205 passes for 2,062 yards and 16 TDs in his one glorious starting season.
#4 Terry Hanratty
If three-year starter Terry Hanratty had a bad "break" at Notre Dame, it was when Michigan's Bubba Smith injured his shoulder and forced him out of the most important game of his one National Championship season, the 10-10 tie with Michigan State. A superb arm, good ball handler and excellent reader of defenses, Hanratty finished his career completing 304 of 550 passes for 4,152 yards and 27 TDs, while rushing for 586 yards and 16 TDs too.
#3 Angelo Bertelli
The first "modern" T-formation quarterback at Notre Dame, the "Springfield Rifle" won Notre Dame's first Heisman Trophy and guided Notre Dame to its first National Championship since the Rockne era. Still, the trivia question is that Angelo Bertelli played in only six games during that Heisman-winning championship 1943 season; he was in the Marines for the last four as future Heisman winner Johnny Lujack took over. Completed 169 of 324 passes for 2,582 yards and 29 TDs during his nearly three year Irish career.
#2 Johnny Lujack
This 1947 Heisman winner led a dominant 10-0 National Championship team that never trailed that season. Still, as good as he was as a QB, he was just as good as a DB; his open field tackle on Doc Blanchard preserved a 1946 0-0 tie with Army and another National Championship. Lujack also shared in a third title as he QB-ed the Irish in the last four games of the 1943 season as well. Finished with a record of 20-1-1 as a starter and completed 144 of 280 passes for 2,080 yards while running for 438 on 81 carries.
#1 Joe Montana
If ever stats didn't tell the story, it was in the legend of the "Comeback Kid." Joe Montana won dramatic comebacks in his first two games in 1975, and then after sitting out the next year with an injury and being relegated to third string, stunned Purdue with a late comeback after finally getting inserted in the third quarter of the third game of the 1977 Championship season. Still, Montana saved his best for last, beating Houston 35-34 in the 1979 Cotton Bowl after sitting out the third quarter with hypothermia and entering the game trailing 34-12. Never made All-American at Notre Dame, but if that last game didn't vindicate him, his four Super Bowl rings later would. At ND, threw for 4,121 yards and 25 TDs and ran for 14 TDs also.