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 5(!!!) days away from kickoff between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Temple Owls, so here are your 5s.
Manti Te'o, Rodney Culver, Terry Hanratty and Paul Hornung days until kickoff... pic.twitter.com/JTz6omEgMB— Bobby Norell (@RENorell_III) August 28, 2017
Manti Te’o - LB - 2009-12
Arguably the most decorated player in the history of the program, Te’o was one of the most beloved players in the last 20 years. Not only was he a great player on the field, but he was a class act off it. Of course, people will always point to how his career ended with a poor performance in the National Title game against Alabama and the whole girlfriend hoax this, but don’t let that take away the fact Te’o was one heckuva player.
The third all-time leading tackler in program history led the Irish in tackles three straight seasons. In fact, he was just the second player in Irish history to record three straight 100+ tackle seasons. Te’o will always be remembered for his historical season of 2012. That year he tallied 103 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and seven interceptions (2nd most in the nation). Te’o took home seven different regular season awards including the Maxwell, Lott, Bednarik, Walter Camp, Nagurski, Butkus and Lombardi Awards. He also finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting, and arguably should have won it over Johnny Manziel.
Te’o was drafted in the second round by the San Diego Chargers in 2013 NFL Draft. He spent four seasons in San Diego before signing with the New Orleans Saints this past offseason.
Paul Hornung - QB - 1953-56
“The Golden Boy”. Hornung, winner of the 1956 Heisman Trophy, is the only player in the history of college football to win the Heisman and play for a losing team. The Irish went 2-8 in ‘56. Hornung was also a two-time All-American in 1955 and ‘56.
Many consider Hornung one of the best all around players in Notre Dame history. He could run, pass, block and tackle. In ‘56 he led the Irish in passing, rushing, scoring, kickoff and punt returns. He also played a little defense and led the team in pass breakups, and was second in interceptions and tackles made. There’s a reason why he was a Heisman winning QB in college, and then an MVP winner at running back in the NFL.
After Notre Dame, Hornung was chose first overall by the Green Bay Packers in the 1957 NFL Draft. He played 10 seasons with the Packers and Saints. He was a five-time World Champion, including winner of Super Bowl I. He was a two-time First Team All-Pro and winner of the 1961 NFL MVP. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1985 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986.
Terry Hanratty - QB - 1965-68
Hanratty was part of Notre Dame’s first notable passing/receiving duo — the other part being Jim Seymour. Hanratty was a three-year starter and a two-time All-American. In 1966, Hanratty led the Irish to their first National Title since 1949. It was also Ara Parseghian’s first title as head coach.
Hanratty was drafted in the second round of the 1969 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He went on to have a pretty decent career as a backup QB, as he won two Super Bowls with Pittsburgh in 1975 and ‘76.
Rodney Culver - RB - 1988-91
Culver played in a loaded backfield with the likes of Ricky Watters, Reggie Brooks and Jerome Bettis. He played as a freshman in 1988, and even scored a touchdown in Notre Dame’s Fiesta Bowl win over West Virginia. It took until his junior season for Culver to become a focal point of the offense. In 1990 he led the Irish in rushing with 710 yards in 11 games. He was also the first single captain Notre Dame had had in 20 years. In his senior season of ‘91, Culver was third on the team in rushing to Bettis and Tony Brooks.
Culver was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the fourth round of the 1992 NFL Draft. He spent two seasons with the Colts as their short-yardage/goal line back, but was cut after the 1993 season. He then signed with the Chargers, who he spent his last three seasons with.
In 1996 Culver and his wife tragically died in a plane crash. He was just 26. Two years ago ESPN wrote a great article about Culver’s life. I encourage you all to read it.
Rhema McKnight - WR - 2002-06
Statisically, McKnight is one of the better receivers in Notre Dame history. He’s fourth all-time in receptions (170), fifth all-time in TD receptions and ninth all-time in yards (2,277). He’s also tied for first for most TD receptions with 15 in 2006. McKnight was also part of one of the best receiving corps Notre Dame has ever had. McKnight, Jeff Samardzija and Maurice Stovall formed a formidable trio in 2005, but a knee injury in the second game of the year against Michigan sidelined McKnight for the year. Luckily, the NCAA allowed him to come back for a fifth year in 2006. McKnight finished second to Samardzija in receiving yards and receptions.
Despite having success in college, McKnight went undrafted in 2007. He spent the 2007 season on the Saints’ and Chargers’ practice squads.