Monday, June 27, 2005

It's a magic number | by Jay

(Our friend Paul posted this excellent inquiry on NDN last week, and gave us his permission to reprint it here. Enjoy.)

is a magic number.

Yes it is,
it's a magic number.

Somewhere in the ancient, mystic trinity
You get three
as a magic number.

-- Schoolhouse Rock

A Georgia alumnus and co-worker asked me what was so special about the #3 jersey at Notre Dame. So I made him this list one evening last week when the wife and kids were out shopping and I was bored. I thought I would rank the list to provoke a little debate. Feel free to disagree.

5. Ron Powlus, QB, 1994-97, Berwick, PA.

Notre Dame’s current director of personnel development for the football program under Charlie Weis, Powlus is Notre Dame's career leader in football passing yardage, pass attempts, completions and touchdown passes. Co-captain of the Irish in both 1996 and 1997, Powlus, in spite of all the statistics, suffers from a perception problem caused by his high school accolades, Beano Cook’s silly pronouncements, his lack of an NFL career, and his won-loss percentage compared to his immediate predecessors: Rice, Mirer, and McDougal. His best game may have been the 1994 thrashing of Northwestern at Soldier Field, or the 38-10 win over #5 Southern California in October 1995 (when Powlus even caught a two-point conversion pass from Marc Edwards). He was 29-16-1 as a starter, by my calculations. But the ND career records get Powlus the number five spot on this list.

4. Rick Mirer, QB, 1989-1992, Goshen, IN.

After the graduation of Tony Rice, sophomore Rick Mirer opened his career at Notre Dame by leading the #1 Irish to a come-from-behind 28-24 victory over Michigan, earning him a Sports Illustrated cover and a "Golden Boy" moniker.

His record as a quarterback at ND was 29-7-1. Mirer was co-captain of the 1992 Irish, leading the team to a 10-1-1 record. Memorable games that year include the “Snow Bowl” (a 17-16 victory over Penn State, thanks to a fourth-down Mirer touchdown pass to Jerome Bettis, and a two-point conversion throw to Reggie Brooks with 20 seconds left) and a thrashing of Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl on New Years Day 1993.

Although he has not lived up to being the second player taken overall in the 1993 NFL draft, Mirer has been a journeyman starter and back-up who, as of this moment, plays behind Joey Harrington in Detroit. Entering his 13th season in the NFL, Mirer has thrown for just under 12,000 yards with 50 TDS but 76 interceptions.

3. Ralph Guglielmi, QB, 1951-54, Columbus, OH.

Ralph Guglielmi became Notre Dame's full-time starting quarterback for the 1952 season and went 25-3-2 as a starter during his Irish career. In 1954, he was unanimous All-America and fourth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy. He also played defensive back and had 10 career interceptions. Guglielmi played in the 1955 College All-Star Game and was voted Most Valuable Player on the college team. Coach Frank Leahy once called him "Notre Dame's greatest passer," as Guglielmi threw for 792 yards for Leahy’s last Notre Dame team. Of note, he led Notre Dame to the win over Oklahoma in 1953.

Guglielmi would go on to play quarterback professionally for Washington (followed by a stint in the U.S. Air Force), then St. Louis, the New York “Football” Giants, and Philadelphia during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Guglielmi was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2001.

2. John Weibel, LG, 1922-24, Erie, PA.

This one surprised me: a lineman wearing the #3. A member of The Seven Mules, the offensive front that blocked for the legendary Four Housemen, John Weibel started at left guard for Knute Rockne’s squad during the magical 10-0 National Championship season of 1924, including the famous Polo Grounds 13-7 win over Army and the only Irish appearance in the Rose Bowl, the 27-10 victory over Stanford.

1. Joe Montana, QB, 1975, 1977-78, Monogahela, PA.

I think most of the status of the #3 belongs to Joe. Montana was co-captain of the ’78 Irish, leading them to a 9-3 record, and the “Chicken Soup” win over Houston in the 1979 Cotton Bowl and Notre Dame’s 600th all-time victory. At Notre Dame, it is his role in the 1977 win over Purdue, the “Green Jersey” game win over Southern California, and the Cotton Bowl victory over Texas to give the Irish the National Championship which will also long be recalled. It was with the Irish that Montana began his tradition of magical fourth-quarter comebacks.

Of course, Joe’s professional career eclipsed his college success (although I did like the TV commercial where Hesburgh asked Joe about what he had done since graduation). Now a football legend, he led the San Francisco 49ers to nine divisional championships and four Super Bowl victories. He was named the Super Bowl’s Most Valuable Player three times and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000. Thirty-one fourth quarter NFL comebacks earned Montana the nickname "Comeback Kid." He was selected for eight Pro Bowls and was a five-time leading passer in the NFC. And he threw for more than 40,000 yards. Montana was named as one of the four quarterbacks on the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.

Honorable Mention:

Daryle Lamonica, QB, 1960-62, Fresno, CA.

Another QB who is best remembered by most football fans for his pro work, Lamonica, like Paul Hornung, quarterbacked the Irish during one of the “dark ages” of Notre Dame football. He split time at QB during his sophomore and junior years, but averaged 37.4 yards per kick as the team’s punter in 1960, and 38.4 per punt in 1961. As a senior, Lamonica went 64 for 128, throwing for 821 yards and 6 TDs. He was named third-team All-America. Lamonica played QB in the old AFL and the NFL with Buffalo and Oakland from 1963-1974. He led the AFL in passing in 1967, going 220 for 425, with 3,228 yards, 30 TDs and 20 picks.

That Oakland team made Super Bowl II, only to fall in Miami to Lombardi’s Packers. Lamonica also led the AFC in passing yardage in 1970, going 179 for 356, with 2,516 yards, 22 TDs and 15 picks.

Arnaz Battle, QB and WR, 1998-2002, Shreveport, LA.

Battle’s turbulent career at Notre Dame included some valiant yet sad moments at quarterback, and one positive season at wide receiver in 2002. At quarterback, he will be remembered by most Irish fans for two events: his non-fumble / called-fumble in 1998 at Southern California; and playing with a broken wrist against #1 Nebraska in the 2000 loss to the Cornhuskers. I also recall his dazzling 74-yard run in the opener against Kansas in 1999, during mop-up duty. In 2002, he started all year at flanker, leading the Irish with 48 receptions for 702 yards (14.6 avg.) and five touchdowns. During the eight-game winning streak to open the Ty Willingham era at Notre Dame, Battle played a significant role in wins over Pittsburgh, Air Force (eight catches for 112 yards), and Florida State (when, on Notre Dame's first play from scrimmage, Carlyle Holiday faked a handoff, rolled right and hit Battle for a 65-yard touchdown).

Ultimately, Battle will likely be remembered by Notre Dame fans for two plays during the 2002 win at Michigan State: the 30-yard pass to a diving Holiday on a trick play, and Pat Dillingham’s short pass to Battle, who then ran 60 yards for the game-winning touchdown with 1:15 remaining in East Lansing.

Entering his third NFL season with the San Francisco 49ers, Battle has only eight career receptions. He did return one punt for a TD in 2004 versus Arizona, and is listed at the top of the depth chart at one WR position during this off-season.

Too early to tell:

Darius Walker, RB, 2004-present, Lawrenceville, GA.

It might be a little premature to include him among the greats just yet, but the fabled jersey already fits Walker pretty well, as related by the Observer after last year's Michigan game:
He did not request the hype. He didn't even want it. But when Darius Walker got to Notre Dame, he received a jersey with the number three - and, some would say, the expectations that came with it. "I guess it worked out for me," Walker said.

The situation is too much of a coincidence. The true freshman from Georgia jumped from promising recruit to celebrity status after igniting the Irish running game in last week's 28-20 upset of No. 8 Michigan, wasting no time in displaying the big-game potential of former number three wearers Joe Montana and Rick Mirer.

Even sub-par Notre Dame fans - the ones who think Rocket Ismail was the name of a NASA space shuttle - know the significance of the number three. Montana, Mirer and Ron Powlus are only some of the legendary Irish alums to sport the symbol. Playmaker Arnaz Battle graduated in the spring of 2003 and no one stepped up to carry the torch.

Then Walker arrived in South Bend, oblivious to the number's availability, but it did not matter. The jersey found him. "I actually wanted a single digit number," Walker said. "I was No. 7 in high school and that was something I was pushing to get. Carlyle Holiday decided to keep the number and three was the only single digit number left."

But the parallels between Walker's timely Saturday performance and those of past great number three's are eerily similar. The most notable moment came in 1980, when kicker Harry Oliver - number three - put a 51-yard field goal through the uprights with no time on the clock to beat - that's right - Michigan. No one expected the wind to subside as Oliver booted the clincher, and no one expected Walker to carry such a load in his first outing - not even the freshman himself.

Also of interest:

Harry Oliver, K, 1980-81, Cincinnati, OH.

From Gerry Faust’s Moeller High School in Cincinnati, Harry Oliver became the starting kicker in his junior year of 1980, Dan Devine’s last season. Oliver made 18 of 23 field goals, and 19 of 23 extra points, during the 1980 season. He ranked third in the NCAA that year, with 1.64 FGs per game, and was named third-team All-America. In his senior year, Oliver made 28 of 30 extra points, but missed 6 field goals for Faust’s first squad. Oliver is best remembered, however, for one of those Notre Dame “miracles”: “Harry O. gets the call.” At the Michigan game in South Bend in 1980, the Irish – moving the ball into the wind late in the 4th quarter – made it to the Michigan 34. As Oliver lined up the 51-yard attempt, the driving wind died down, allowing his 51-yard kick to sail through the goal posts. Tony Roberts’s made the call for Irish fans on the radio: “I watched the flags. Just as he got ready to kick, believe it or not, those flags went limp. The wind had shifted. His kick was right there, just there, in time. Notre Dame with a miracle win...” The Irish beat the Wolverines 29-27 as time ran out.

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.George Izo, QB, 1957-59, Barberton, OH.

In the 1958 season, Izo came off the bench to lead the Irish over Purdue in a 29-22 comeback victory. During that season, Izo was also an important defender, leading the team with four interceptions. Playing for first-year coach Joe Kuharich in 1959, he threw for six touchdowns, as he split time at quarterback with Don White. Izo played professionally for St. Louis, Washington, Detroit, and Pittsburgh from 1960-66.

Coley O’Brien, QB, 1966-68, McLean, VA

Coley O’Brien’s heroic role in replacing starter Terry Hanratty during the 1966 game against Michigan State earns him high status on the list of some Notre Dame fans. O’Brien’s 34-yard touchdown pass to Bob Gladieux marked the only Irish touchdown in the 10-10 tie. He also was the holder on Joe Azzaro’s field goal for the only other Irish points. The tie, in East Lansing, against the #2 team, followed by the 51-0 trouncing of Southern California the next week, won the National Championship for Ara and the Irish.

Some others who wore the #3 jersey for the Irish, according to, include: Emmett Murphy, QB, 1930-32, Duluth, MN; George Moriarty, QB, 1933-35, Lynn, MA; Bill Hofer, QB, 1936-38, Rock Island, IL; Bob Hargrave, QB, 1939-41, Evansville, IN; Al Skat, QB, 1943, Milwaukee, WI; Roger Brown, QB, 1946-47, Chicago, IL; Bill Whiteside, QB, 1949-50, Philadelphia, PA; Dan McGinn, QB, 1963-65, Omaha, NE; Scott Smith, K, 1970-71, Dallas, TX; and Alonzo Jefferson, TB, 1983-87, W. Palm Beach, FL.

(Sources: “All-Time Roster,” Official Athletic Site, University of Notre Dame, and other aspects of; “Hall of Famers,” College Football Hall of Fame; The Notre Dame Football Encyclopedia: The Ultimate Guide to America’s Favorite College Team, Keith Marder, Mark Spellen, and Jim Donovan, (New York: Citadel, 2001); Echoes of Notre Dame Football: Great and Memorable Moments of the Fighting Irish (Sourcebooks Mediafusion; Book & CD edition, 2001); and

-- Paul