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Irish In The NFL: Season Recap

One former Notre Dame football player is guaranteed to join a long list of Irish alumni to win Super Bowl rings following Sunday's NFL title game.

Former ND defensive end Justin Tuck meets the press during Media Day. PHOTO BY Steve Helwagen/Bucknuts,com

New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck, who played at Notre Dame from 2001-04, is making his second appearance in the big game after helping the G-Men win it all in 2008.

"At first you just see all the bulbs flashing, it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before," Tuck said about his first trip to the sport's biggest stage. "And that’s when I kind of realized, 'Man, this is the Super Bowl.'"

Tuck was limited earlier in the year while dealing with lingering neck and groin injuries, and a toe injury also slowed him down midway through the season. He played in 15 games (starting 14) heading into the Super Bowl, totaling 46 tackles and 6.5 sacks, including 1.5 sacks and four stops in a 20-17 win over San Francisco in the NFC Championship.

The Giants' defensive line has been a major factor in their late-season surge. As a unit, they've racked up nine sacks and allowed only one rushing touchdown in the playoffs.

"We all want to be the top dog but at the end of the day we understand that the only way we have success is by doing it as a football team," he said. "We can't do it as [fellow defensive end] Osi [Umenyiora] doing his thing while I'm doing my thing. That’s never going to work. We know to be successful we have to play as a unit."

New England Patriots safety Sergio Brown (2006-09) has 37 tackles and one interception prior to the Super Bowl. He started three games this season, most recently a 27-24 victory over Miami on Dec. 24.

One will proudly slip on a championship ring, as did these former Irish greats:

Mark Bavaro - New York Giants - 1987, 1991
Jerome Bettis - Pittsburgh - 2006
Steve Beuerlein - Dallas - 1993
Rocky Bleier - Pittsburgh - 1975, 1976, 1979, 1980
Rocky Boiman - Indianapolis - 2007
Junior Bryant - San Francisco - 1995
Nick Buoniconti - Miami - 1973, 1974
John Carney - New Orleans - 2010
Dave Casper - Oakland - 1977
Jerome Collins - New York Giants - 2008
Eric Dorsey - New York Giants - 1987, 1991
Dave Duerson - Chicago - 1986
Marc Edwards - New England - 2002
Marcus Freeman - New York Giants - 2008
David Givens - New England - 2004, 2005
Ryan Grant - Green Bay - 2011
Terry Hanratty - Pittsburgh - 1975, 1976
Craig Hentrich - Green Bay - 1997
Jabari Holloway - New England - 2002
Paul Hornung - Green Bay - 1967
Lindsay Knapp - Green Bay - 1997
Bob Kuechenberg - Miami - 1973, 1974
Bobby Leopold - San Francisco - 1982
Todd Lyght - St. Louis - 2000
Jim Lynch - Kansas City - 1970
Red Mack - Green Bay - 1967
Derrick Mayes - Green Bay - 1997
Joe Montana - San Francisco - 1982, 1985, 1989, 1990
Anthony Peterson - San Francisco - 1995
Tom Rehder - New York Giants - 1991
Hunter Smith - Indianapolis - 2007
Steve Sylvester - Oakland - 1977, 1981 Los Angeles - 1984
Aaron Taylor - Green Bay - 1997
Tom Thayer - Chicago - 1986
Joe Theismann - Washington - 1983
Ricky Watters - San Francisco - 1995
Brock Williams - New England - 2002
Bryant Young - San Francisco - 1995

2011-12 Season Summary
• Victor Abiamiri (Played at Notre Dame from 2003-06), DT, Philadelphia Eagles: Missed the year after suffering a torn Achilles tendon during training camp.

Armando Allen (2007-10), RB, Chicago Bears: Began the season on the Bears’ practice squad … Released on Oct. 11 and resigned to the practice team on Nov. 2 ... Placed on active roster for final two games and rushed a total of 15 times for 48 yards.

• Arnaz Battle (1998-2001), WR, Pittsburgh Steelers: Didn’t record a reception this year … Was the captain of Pittsburgh’s special teams and had four tackles in 10 games.

• David Bruton (2005-08), S, Denver Broncos: Finished the regular season with 20 tackles and three pass deflections ... Had 14 tackles combined in Denver’s two playoff games.

• John Carlson (2003-07), TE, Seattle Seahawks: Missed the entire campaign after having surgery to repair a torn labrum suffered during the preseason.

• Jimmy Clausen (2007-09), QB, Carolina Panthers: Started 10 games last season, but didn’t see a snap in 2011 behind starter Cam Newton.

• Jeff Faine (1999-2002), C, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Started all 15 games he in which he played, missing one contest in late October with a strained biceps.

• Anthony Fasano (2002-05), TE, Miami Dolphins: Had 32 catches for 451 yards (14.1 yards per reception) and five touchdowns in 15 starts.

• Ryan Grant (2001-04), RB, Green Bay Packers: Started 15 games, including a 37-20 loss to the New York Giants in the playoffs ... Registered 142 carries for 592 yards (4.2 per carry) and two TDs.

• J.J. Jansen (2004-07), LS, Carolina Panthers: Served as the Panthers’ long snapper in all 16 games.

• Terrail Lambert (2004-08), DB, Oakland Raiders: Spent the first nine weeks of the season on the New Orleans Saints’ practice squad before being cut Nov. 8 ... Was signed to Oakland’s practice squad, where he spent the remainder of the season, on Nov. 16.

• Derek Landri (2002-06), DT, Philadelphia Eagles: Signed with the Eagles on Oct. 4 and appeared in 12 games, recording 21 tackles and two sacks.

• Trevor Laws (2003-07), DT, Philadelphia Eagles: Appeared in 14 games, starting the final contest of the year — a 34-10 win over Washington on New Year’s Day ... Finished with 20 total stops, a sack and one quarterback hurry.

• Mark LeVoir (2001-05), OT, St. Louis Rams: Sidelined with pectoral and groin injuries, he started four of 10 games in which he played.

• Kyle McCarthy (2005-09), S, Denver Broncos: Spent the first 11 weeks of the campaign on the Broncos’ practice squad before being promoted to the active roster on Nov. 28 ... Played in four of the team’s final five regular season games, producing three tackles.

• Eric Olsen (2006-09), OL, Washington Redskins: Spent the entire regular season on the Washington Redskins’ practice squad before signing with New Orleans, where he was immediately placed on the 53-man roster for the postseason ... His deal runs through the 2012-13 season.

• Brady Quinn (2003-06), QB, Denver Broncos: Did not see game action for the Broncos.

Kyle Rudolph (2008-10), TE, Minnesota Vikings: Named the team’s Rookie of the Year and was selected to the All-Rookie Team after starting eight of 15 games played and recording 26 receptions for 249 yards and three scores.

• Brian Smith (2007-10), LB, Cleveland Browns: Cleveland’s final cut following training camp, he was signed back in late November and quickly graduated from the practice squad, appearing in the final two contests (no tackles).

• Maurice Stovall (2002-05), WR, Detroit Lions: Had one reception for eight yards while seeing action in 13 contests, primarily on special teams (seven tackles).

• John Sullivan (2003-07), C, Minnesota Vikings: Started in all 15 games in which he played, missing one with a concussion ... Signed a five-year, $25 million contract extension in December.

• Golden Tate (2007-09), WR, Seattle Seahawks: Started five games and finished the year with 35 catches for 382 yards (10.9 average) and three TDs.

Darrin Walls (2006-10), CB, Atlanta Falcons: Was inactive for each of the Falcons’ first 11 games this season before making his debut on Dec. 4 in a loss to Houston, making a tackle on special teams ... Ended the year with three tackles and one interception.

Ian Williams (2007-10), DT, San Francisco 49ers: Was inactive this season except for a brief appearance against Tampa Bay Oct. 9.

• Sam Young (2006-09), OT, Buffalo Bills: Saw action in three games after joining the Bills on Sept. 6 ... Was inactive from Oct. 30 until seeing action in the final game of the year — a 49-21 loss to New England.

• Tom Zbikowski (2003-07), S, Baltimore Ravens: Suffered a concussion on Oct. 2 and missed the following two games … Started four of 16 games played and ended the year with 23 tackles and a sack, including one stop in the 23-20 loss to the Patriots in the AFC Championship.

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