Yesterday the Notre Dame football media relations office revealed several numerical changes on the Irish roster for 2011.
• Cornerback Bennett Jackson – 86 to 2. This coincides with his move from wide receiver and the number vacated by Darrin Walls.
• Louis Nix III – 67 to 9. The freshman nose guard inherits the number of tight end Kyle Rudolph, who was his “Big Brother” this year before turning pro.
• Tommy Rees – 13 to 11. Wearing lucky No. 13, freshman quarterback Rees was 4-0 as the starter. Can he do any better donning 11?
• Robby Toma – 19 to 9. What is it about that No. 9 that has become so popular? Both Rudolph and defensive linemen Ethan Johnson wore it in 2008-09, and now Nix and Toma.
Meanwhile, all five early enrollees from this year’s freshman class also have been assigned their jersey numbers. As is our tradition with each freshman, we also show who are considered the most famous Irish players to have previously worn that number.
#1 Outside linebacker/defensive end Ishaq Williams
First Team: Todd Lyght (1987-90)
One of only 16 two-time consensus All-Americans (1989-90) in Notre Dame’s football history, Lyght also started all 12 games as a sophomore cornerback for the 1988 national champs.
Second Team: Derrick Mayes (1992-95)
Fourth on the Irish career chart in receiving yards with 2,512, but what is particularly impressive is his 19.4 yards per grab is easily the best among those who caught at least 100 passes.
Third Team: Tony Carey (1963-65)
Played an instrumental role as junior defensive back during Ara Parseghian’s spectacular debut season in 1964, leading the team in interceptions (8) and passes broken up (10) en route to second-team All-America notice.
#5 Quarterback Everett Golson
First Team: Paul Hornung (1954-56)
The 1956 Heisman Trophy winner might be regarded in many circles as Notre Dame’s greatest living football player. Only four Irish players are in both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame: Wayne Millner from the 1930s, George Connor from the 1940s, Hornung from the 1950s, and Alan Page from the 1960s.
Second Team: Elmer Layden (1922-24)
The fullback for the immortal Four Horsemen backfield that won Notre Dame its first consensus national title (1924), Layden was the lone two-time All-American among that quartet. He joined Knute Rockne and George Gipp in the initial College Football Hall of Fame induction in 1951.
Third Team: Terry Hanratty (1966-68)
The three-year starter at quarterback finished 6th in the 1966 Heisman Trophy balloting, 9th in 1967 and 3rd in 1968. He and Angelo Bertelli (1941-43) are the only Irish players to rank among the top 10 three years in a row.
Note: Current linebacker Manti Te’o could become the most famous defensive player to sport this number.
#19 Defensive End Aaron Lynch
First Team: Jack Cannon (1929-31)
The left guard for Rockne’s 1929 national champs was a first-team All-American and is enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. Known for his toughness, he e is the last Notre Dame player to compete in games without wearing a helmet.
Second Team: John Krimm (1978-81)
Three-year starting cornerback earned first-team Academic All-America honors as a senior and also first-team notice from The Sporting News for his work on the field. His most famous play was a weaving 49-yard interception return for a touchdown in the 29-27 victory over Michigan in 1980.
Third Team: Glenn Earl (2000-03)
The safety became a playmaker for the 9-2 regular-season Notre Dame teams in 2000 and 2002. In 2000 Earl helped win two games with a blocked punt (Purdue) and blocked field goal (Air Force). In 2002 he was named ABC-TV’s Player of the Game in Notre Dame’s 34-24 upset of Florida State that raised the Irish record to 8-0.
#27 Kicker/punter Kyle Brindza
First Team: Mike Townsend (1971-73)
In 1972 as a free safety, Townsend led the nation in interceptions with 10, still a single-season Notre Dame record. Moved to cornerback in 1973, he pulled off the ultimate triple play: 1) selected as a tri-captain by his teammates; 2) consensus All-America; 3) national title.
Second Team: Nick Rassas (1963-65)
One of the greatest walk-ons in Irish annals, the defensive back/return man started at safety during the 1964 renaissance campaign under Ara Parseghian and then earned consensus All-America notice as a senior. In 1965 he led the nation in punt returns with a 19.1 average, highlighted by three TDs. He also returned an interception for a score.
Third Team: Roger Kiley (1919-21)
Received first-team All-America notice in both 1920 and 1921 while lining up as an end on Notre Dame teams that were 19-1.
#56 Defensive End Brad Carrico
First Team: Dave Huffman (1975-78)
Three-year starter for the Irish at center, Huffman snapped to Joe Montana for the 1977 national champs. He was a consensus All-America as a senior, a second-round NFL selection and a 12-year pro.
Second Team: Larry DiNardo (1968-70)
A consensus All-America as a senior captain in 1970 even though he missed the final six games with torn knee ligaments. Considered one of the best technicians ever to play along the Irish offensive line, he also was an Academic All-America selection and named to UPI’s first team as a junior in 1969.
Third Team: Frank Pomarico (1971-73) & Kevin Griffith (1978-82)
A fellow New York native and offensive guard, Pomarico grew up idolizing DiNardo (and teamed with Larry’s younger brother, Gerry) and took his No. 56 as a sophomore in 1971 after Larry graduated. Pomarico also became a three-year starter and was a tri-captain for the 1973 national champs. Defensive lineman Griffith came from the DiNardo/Pomarico mold in that he wasn’t coveted by the pros but was a technician who maximized his ability as a three-year starter along the defensive front.