We’re talking about the best Notre Dame Fighting Irish football players during the Charlie Weis era. As I said in the opening post, despite the horrible record Weis had during his time at Notre Dame, he did have quite a bit of talent. The only names (for the most part) that were dropped, were Brady Quinn, Jeff Samardzija, Golden Tate, and Tommy Zibikowski.
Those are some great players — legends, if you will — but for me and my house, our favorite player of the Weis era will forever be Jimmy Clausen.
Jimmy Clausen immediately got off to a rough start when he announced his commitment to play for Notre Dame in the spring of 2006. The stretched Hummer, the College Football Hall of Fame, and the audacity of talking about winning a national championship. This, of course, rubbed some Irish fans the wrong way, and gave ammo to those that hate Notre Dame.
Never mind that by today’s standards, what Clausen did was extremely mild — people already had their minds made up that Clausen was a prima donna. He was called the “Lebron James of high school football” because the kid was incredible — just incredible. However, no matter the stats he piled up, he came off as arrogant and “superior” to people that look for the humble warrior types (AKA Irish fans).
Let’s get past all of that.
Clausen arrived at Notre Dame as an early enrollee in the spring of 2007 looking to compete for a starting job with the great Brady Quinn graduating and leaving some big shoes to fill. The battle pitted Clausen against Evan Sharpley and Demetrius Jones, and the “secret” went into fall camp.
It was odd and it was an omen to what was to come. We all know the results of the 2007 season, which had one of the most divided locker rooms that I have ever seen. While Jones and Sharpley both had most of the locker room backing them in one way or another, Clausen was pretty much isolated as a freshman. It got even more out of hand once Jones quit, and the eyes of many (including most of the linemen) fell upon Sharpley. The team had horrible leadership from top to bottom and an even worse head coach in Charlie Weis. Just watch how the offensive linemen left Clausen to die half of the time. (Looking directly at you John Sullivan).
Despite all that noise, Clausen started 9 games, but all of the ridiculous crap that the team went through that year, lead to various opinions about Jimmy and what he was all about.
Why is Jimmy Clausen my favorite player from the Weis era? Well, it’s because many of you were so blinded by nonsense. Jimmy Clausen gave EVERYTHING he had out on the field every Saturday. He had giant balls, and was far tougher than anyone gave him credit for then and now.
Not once at Notre Dame did you ever read about Clausen complaining, making excuses, or saying anything that wasn’t about the team and their efforts. And yet, he still rubbed people the wrong way as he played hard every game, and even played while injured.
He played to win — for Notre Dame.
Unlike Jimmy’s predecessor, Brady Quinn, he didn’t have much of a functioning offensive line, nor did he have a running game that included the sure-footed Darius Walker. He never had even a decent defense to help him out either (hello TAH-NOO-TAH / Corwin Brown marriage from hell). Jimmy did have weapons to throw to, but it took his superior skill and accuracy to get the ball to them while trying not to die from a defensive line sack party.
Many of you chose Golden Tate when I asked who your favorite player was from the Weis era. He’s a better than solid pick, and he was a really, really close second for me. Tate was amazing and did so many things. Tate was also as cocky and brash as it gets, and yet he gets a pass from all of you that call Clausen brash and cocky.
Can you imagine what Golden Tate and Jimmy Clausen would have done in 2010 if they had stayed for their senior year? Neither would have beat out Cam Newton for the Heisman Trophy, but they might have made it a lot more interesting.
For shame, friends, for shame. Golden didn’t have all of that pressure or that spotlight (AKA “target”) on him like Jimmy did. I love Golden, but, I just have to go with Jimmy here.
I’ll take it a step farther... if I had to make a Notre Dame fantasy team from all of the Irish players past and present, my number one pick would be Jimmy Clausen. It’s not because he is my favorite player of all-time (hello Jeff Burris), it’s because he is the best Irish passer ever to “pass” the football.
When you’re called the “GOAT” most people relate that to being the greatest of all time. In Clausen’s case, he was the GOAT because he was the scapegoat for all that was terrible during the Charlie Weis era. It’s unfair, and unjust, and just plain wrong.
Clausen was the greatest, and that’s how I will always remember it.