If you follow me on Twitter, which a good number of you probably don’t, you know that for the last few weeks I’ve been posting photos of old and current ND players in countdown to the first game. Today we are officially 14 days away from kickoff between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Temple Owls, so here are your 14s.
Johnny Lattner, Emil Sitko, DeShone Kizer and Gary Godsey days until kickoff... pic.twitter.com/Hp8TWKAuKf— Bobby Norell (@RENorell_III) August 19, 2017
Johnny Lattner - HB - 1951-53
When you’re talking about Johnny Lattner, you’re talking about one of the true legends of Notre Dame football. One of the best players ever to play for the Fighting Irish. The Oak Brook, IL native came to Notre Dame in 1950, choosing Notre Dame over Michigan (pretty smart guy, eh?). After sitting out his freshman season, as freshmen weren’t eligible back in the day, Lattner quickly became a starter.
In his senior season of 1953, Lattner won the Heisman Trophy, as the nation’s best player. He rushed for 651 yards (4.9 YPC) and nine touchdowns. He also had 14 receptions for 209 yards, tallied two interceptions and two kickoff returns for touchdowns. At the time, it was Notre Dame’s fourth Heisman winner. That same season Lattner led the Irish to a 9-0-1 record, finishing second to Maryland in the final poll. Lattner was also a two-time consensus All-American and two-time recipient of the Maxwell Award in 1952 and ‘53.
Lattner passed away in March of last year at the age of 83.
Emil Sitko - FB - 1946-49
Sitko did not have the most conventional route to South Bend. After serving in the military during World War II, Sitko didn’t enroll at Notre Dame until he was 23. He was a four year starter for the Irish at halfback and fullback. He is also one of the most winningest players in Notre Dame history. In his four years, the Fighting Irish had a record of 36-0-2, winning three National Titles (arguably should have been a fourth).
Legendary Notre Dame head coach Frank Leahy had this to say about Sitko.
“Emil wasn’t very big as football players go — not even for those days, but he was the fastest starting back I ever coached.”
That is pretty high praise from one of the best coaches of all-time.
He was a two-time All-American in 1948 and ‘49 — ‘49 coming in the unanimous variety. He also took home the Walter Camp Award that same season. Sitko earned the nickname “Six-Yard Sitko”, and for good reason too. His career yards per carry was 6.1. That mark ranks third all-time in Notre Dame history, only behind Don Miller and George Gipp.
DeShone Kizer - QB - 2014-16
We all are pretty much familiar with Kizer’s story by now. In 2015 nothing much was expected of him except to be the backup to Malik Zaire. That all changed though in the second game of the year when Zaire broke his ankle and Kizer was thrust into a sticky situation on the road against Virginia. Kizer, as we grew to know, kept his cool and led the Irish to victory, bombing a 39-yard touchdown strike to Will Fuller. That was one of my favorite plays of all-time. He was dynamite in 2015.
He was a little bit more up and down in 2016, but that could be expected when Brian Kelly never officially named a starter until about three games into the season. That being said, Kizer played well enough to keep Notre Dame in games and put them in position to win — they just could never pull it out.
Gary Godsey - QB/TE - 2000-02
Godsey came to Notre Dame as a quarterback and because of injuries he actually saw some action his freshman season. He quickly realized that playing time would be quite slim if he remained a QB, so he made the move to tight end. His most productive year came in 2002 when he caught 16 passes for 155 yards.
He really has no business on being on this list, but for some reason I loved saying his name when I was little, so I have to put him here.