This Sunday marks the 15th consecutive year that a Notre Dame football alumnus is on at least one of the Super Bowl teams.
Defensive end Justin Tuck (2001-04) is the most recent Notre Dame football alumnus to win a Super Bowl, and he’s done it twice with the New York Giants.
The Seattle Seahawks are represented by 2009 Biletnikoff Award winner Golden Tate (2007-09), the team’s leading receiver with 64 catches for 898 yards (14.0 yards per catch) and five touchdowns. He also is the top punt returner with 51 that averaged 11.5 yards per try. Meanwhile, the Denver Broncos’ roster includes safety David Bruton (2005-08), a special teams standout with 23 tackles this season.
The current Fighting Irish Super Bowl streak of 15 is tied with Purdue for the second longest by one school, behind only Nebraska’s 21 (seventh-year linebacker Stewart Bradey is on injured reserve, though, for Denver).
Notre Dame’s streak began during the 1999 season, when Pro Bowl cornerback Todd Lyght’s (1987-90) St. Louis Rams ended up defeating punter Craig Hentrich’s (1989-92) Tennessee Titans 23-16 on Jan. 30, 2000.
Last year, the Fighting Irish were represented by defensive tackle Ian Williams (2007-10) and linebacker Darius Fleming (2008-11), who was on injured reserve, for the San Francisco 49ers, who lost to the Baltimore Ravens. The year prior, New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck (2001-04) won his second Super Bowl ring as a standout for head coach Tom Coughlin’s defense in their second upset of the New England Patriots on football’s grandest stage.
Tate and Bruton will be the 64th and 65th different Notre Dame players to dress as a participant in the event’s 48-year history.
Here are some more Notre Dame trivia notes in the Super Bowl, dating back to the first in 1967 between the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs.
The first tackle in Super Bowl history was made by a Notre Dame graduate, Bill “Red” Mack of Vince Lombardi’s dynasty at Green Bay. Mack played running back for Joe Kuharich’s Irish teams from 1959-61 and overcame a severe knee injury in college to latch on with the Pittsburgh Steelers and then the Packers. His tackle came against USC’s 1965 Heisman Trophy winner Mike Garrett on the opening kickoff.
Outhouse To Penthouse
The only member of a Notre Dame staff to win the Super Bowl as a head coach was Hank Stram, who was an assistant for Terry Brennan in 1957-58 before that group was fired after a 6-4 season in 1958. Stram eventually landed on his feet in the old AFL, and his 1969 Kansas City Chiefs defeated Minnesota 23-7 in the 1970 Super Bowl.
It took 10 Super Bowls before a Notre Dame alumnus scored a touchdown. Tight end Dave Casper (1970-73) did the honors in 1977, when he tallied the game’s first score on a one-yard pass from Ken Stabler in Oakland’s 32-14 victory versus Minnesota.
College And NFL Champs
Ten Notre Dame alumni have achieved the special feat of winning a national title with the Irish and a Super Bowl as a player:
• The first was linebacker Jim Lynch, captain of the 1966 national champs and a starting linebacker for Stram’s Chiefs in 1969. Other representatives on that 1966 team to win both were quarterback Terry Hanratty and running back Rocky Bleier with the Pittsburgh Steelers’ dynasty in the 1970s, and offensive linenman Bob Kuechenberg with the Miami Dophins in 1972 and 1973.
• From the 1973 national champs, there was tight end Casper and offensive tackle Steve Sylvester — who won three with the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders.
• The 1977 national champs were represented by quarterback Joe Montana and linebacker Bobby Leopold of the San Francisco 49ers.
• The 1988 group featured running back Ricky Watters of the 1994 San Francisco 49ers and cornerback Todd Lyght for the 1999 St. Louis Rams.
Almost A Perfect 10
Although Ross Browner (1973-77) didn’t have as decorated an NFL career as he did at Notre Dame, he still holds the Super Bowl record for most unassisted tackles by a defensive lineman. During the Cincinnati Bengals’ 26-21 loss to San Francisco in the 1982 Super Bowl, Browner was credited with 10 solo stops — highlighted by a sack of former Irish teammate Montana, who directed the first of his four Super Bowl titles.
Best Debut Act
The lone Notre Dame alumnus to start in a Super Bowl as a rookie was defensive lineman Bryant Young (1990-93) for the 49ers team that won it all in 1995. Young also was the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Twice As Nice
The lone Notre Dame player to score touchdowns in two different Super Bowls was David Givens (1998-2001), who snared scoring passes from Tom Brady in New England’s 2004 and 2005 Super Bowl conquests of Carolina and Philadelphia, respectively. His offensive coordinator was Charlie Weis, class of 1978 and the head coach at Notre Dame from 2005-09.
Running back Ricky Watters (1987-90) holds the Notre Dame record for most career touchdowns in the Super Bowl, tallying all three of his during San Francisco’s 49-26 rout of San Diego in 1995.
Double The Pleasure
Two Notre Dame alumni won Super Bowls with two different franchises as a player.
Dave Duerson was a Pro Bowl safety for the peerless 1985 Chicago Bears defense and also won a Super Bowl with the New York Giants in 1991.
The other is a more fascinating luck-of-the-draw case with Jerome Collins. A backup tight end at Notre Dame in 2004 behind the likes of Anthony Fasano, Marcus Freeman and John Carlson, Collins still latched on to NFL rosters and won back-to-back rings. He was on injured reserve for the 2006 Indianapolis Colts and was on the New York Giants’ active roster in 2007.
Cradle Of Quarterbacks
Two different schools have produced three different starting quarterbacks to win Super Bowl titles. Alabama has Bart Starr, Joe Namath and Ken Stabler, while Purdue has Len Dawson, Bob Griese and Drew Brees. Notre Dame has two with Joe Montana (1982, 1985, 1989 and 1990) and Joe Theismann (1983).
However, two other Notre Dame quarterbacks who took snaps in Super Bowl victories were Terry Hanratty for Pittsburgh in 1976, when starter Terry Bradshaw was hurt in the fourth quarter, and Steve Beuerlein (1983-86), who replaced starter Troy Aikman during Dallas’ 1993 blowout of Buffalo.
The first Notre Dame quarterback to start a Super Bowl was Daryle Lamonica (1960-62), whose Oakland Raiders lost Super Bowl II in 1968 to Green Bay (33-14).
The most recent Notre Dame quarterback to be on a Super Bowl participant was Rick Mirer (1989-92) as a backup on the 2003 Oakland Raiders team that was pummeled by Tampa Bay (48-21).
There is one other Notre Dame quarterback who owns a Super Bowl ring while taking part in the game. Tom Clements (1972-74), who engineered the 1973 national title, was the quartebacks coach for Aaron Rodgers when the Green Bay Packers defeated Pittsburgh in 2011. He was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2012.
Defensive lineman Alan Page is one of Notre Dame’s all-time legendary student-athletes and has been enshrined in both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame. But no Irish alumnus ever tasted more frustration in the Super Bowl, where he was 0-4, losing by double digits each time.
The frustration especially boiled over during a 24-7 loss to Miami in the 1974 Super Bowl. Late in the game, he was hit for a personal foul for a late hit on the quarterback — and one play later was whistled for an offsetting personal foul during a scuffle. It just so happened the Miami player he was fighting with was 1966 national title teammate Bob Kuechenberg, a Pro Bowl guard for the Dolphins.
Ring Of Champions
These are the 37 Notre Dame players who have won Super Bowl rings:
4 — Rocky Bleier and Joe Montana
3 — Steve Sylvester
2 — Mark Bavaro, Nick Buoniconti, Jerome Collins, Eric Dorsey, Dave Duerson, David Givens, Terry Hanratty, Bob Kuechenberg and Justin Tuck
1 — Jerome Bettis, Steve Beuerlein, Rocky Boiman, Junior Bryant, John Carney, Dave Casper, Marc Edwards, Ryan Grant, Craig Hentrich, Jabari Holloway, Paul Hornung, Lindsay Knapp, Bobby Leopold, Todd Lyght, Jim Lynch, Bill “Red” Mack, Derrick Mayes, Anthony Peterson, Tom Rehder, Hunter Smith, Aaron Taylor, Tom Thayer, Joe Theismann, Brock Williams, Ricky Watters and Bryant Young