Irish continue strong presence in NFL, recruits sign
Former Notre Dame football players Tim Brown and Jerome Bettis were inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame on January 31. Brown was named a finalist for the 6th consecutive year, while Bettis was a finalist for the fifth year in a row.
Brown, Notre Dame’s last Heisman Trophy winner and the first wide receiver to win the award, had previously been inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2009. In 2012, he was among 6 former collegiate athletes to be awarded the NCAA Silver Anniversary Award.
During his tenure with the Irish, Brown set 19 school records and was a two-time All American. He set the then-school record for single-season numbers with 2,493 receiving yards and 12 touchdown receptions. In his senior season, Brown recorded 167.9 all-purpose yards per game, good for 6th nationally.
Brown’s success carried over into the NFL, where he was drafted 6th overall by the Los Angeles Raiders. He would go on to play 16 seasons with the Raiders, setting franchise records for receptions, receiving yards, and punt return yards. When Brown retired, his 14,934 receiving yards were second all-time in NFL history, his 1,094 receptions good for third, and his 100 touchdown receptions tied for third.
Bettis was one of the most feared and celebrated fullbacks in Notre Dame history. He built his reputation as a bruiser and was crowned with the nickname, “The Bus.” He racked up over 2,300 yards of total offense for the Irish and had 27 touchdowns in his career. Bettis carried the Irish backfield during his sophomore year with 977 rushing yards, and in the 1991 season he hit a school milestone with 20 rushing touchdowns in a season.
Bettis went on to even greater success in the NFL, where he was selected 10th overall by the Los Angeles Rams in the 1993 NFL draft. In his first season, Bettis ranked second in the league and 7th in league history with 1,492 rushing yards and was named AP Offensive Rookie of the Year. He accumulated 1,000 rushing yards in both of his seasons playing with the Rams.
In 1996, Bettis joined the Pittsburgh Steelers and would go on to rush for 1,000 yards in 6 straight seasons. He led the team in rushing from 1996-2001 and 2003-2004. At the time of his retirement, Bettis had tied for third in league history with 8 1,000 yard rushing seasons and ranked fifth in all-time rushing with 13,662 yards. He played in 6 Pro Bowls, was named to the All-Pro team three times, and was a member of the victorious Super Bowl XL team.
February 2 is National Signing Day for college football’s most touted recruits. Notre Dame landed a whopping 24 recruits on signing day, four of whom are early enrollees with the university.
The Irish pulled in plenty of talent on the offensive side of the ball, highlighted by quarterback Brandon Wimbush and wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown. Wimbush appears to be a great fit for the Irish offense—he has a strong arm and good mobility.
“He lights up the room. He’s a thermometer guy. The temperature in the room rises when he’s in it because he has such a great presence about him,” Coach Brian Kelly said of Wimbush.
St. Brown made his decision on signing day in trilingual fashion. The 6’5” receiver will bring depth and height to a wide receiver roster that already contains Corey Robinson and Will Fuller.
One concern for the Irish coaching staff was having only two scholarship running backs on the roster in Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston. Notre Dame landed two running backs in Josh Adams and Dexter Williams, just what the staff ordered. Williams was the biggest get, as Irish coaches battled it out with Miami to land the four-star running back.
“We love his family, his mom and dad were extremely supportive of him leaving Florida and coming up here,” said Kelly. “He knows that his experience at Notre Dame is going to benefit him greatly, not only in the short term but in the long term.”
The Irish defensive unit suffered numerous injuries and setbacks last season, with a number of freshmen getting their first taste of game experience during the second half of the season.
Kelly added some oomph to the defensive line with Jerry Tillery. The 6’10”, 310 pound Tillery figures to slide into the middle of the defensive line. Tillery was originally recruited as an offensive lineman, but Kelly announced that Tillery would make the switch to the defensive side of the ball.
The linebackers of the class will add to the speed and pursuit that defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder prizes in his defense. Te’veon Coney, Josh Barajas, and Asmar Bilal all look to compete for starting time at linebacker right away. Coney is already on campus and has impressed the coaching staff with his strength.
“He physically looks like a guy that has been in our program for a couple years,” Kelly said of Coney. “Te’veon very much has the physical traits necessary to compete early on.”
Jonathan Mehall is a senior at Holy Cross College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.