We continue our trip across the United States with the top five Notre Dame football players from the state of Massachusetts. In a state with such a high population of Irish Catholic folks, it only makes sense that a few of them turned out to be fantastic football players.
Without further ado, let’s look at some of the best Fighting Irish players from Beantown and beyond.
5. Justin Yoon
After being born in Ohio and spent his childhood in Nashville, Tennessee, Yoon played his high school ball at Milton Academy in Massachusetts. So yeah, we’re counting it. But come on, with his name in as many places in the Notre Dame record as it is, it’s tough to not put Yoon on this list.
Heading into the 2018 season, Yoon is fifth in career scoring at Notre Dame with 275 points. He’s also scored the eighth and tenth most points in a season at ND with 97 in 2017 and 95 in 2015. A perusal of the Irish record book and you will see his name in about 27 other places, or so. When his career is over, Yoon will leave South Bend as one of the all-time greats in terms of putting points on the board.
4. Wayne Millner
Born in Roxbury, Millner played for Salem High School before spending three years in prep school. After that, Millner came to Notre Dame to play end from 1933 to 1935.
Millner earned college All-America as an end honors in 1935. During his time with the Irish, he played a vital role in some of the biggest wins in Notre Dame history. Millner blocked a punt against Army and recovered it for the game-winning touchdown in 1933, sealing a 13-12 victory for the Irish. Then in 1935, Millner caught the game-winning touchdown against Ohio State in the closing seconds to help the Irish stay undefeated.
Millner went on to have a hall of fame career in the NFL throughout the 1930s and 1940s. Then in 1943, Millner returned to Notre Dame as an assistant coach where we won a national title before returning to the NFL as a head coach. Millner was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1968. He died in 1976 from a heart attack at the age of 63.
3. Mark Bavaro
Born in Winthrop and a product of Danvers High School, the tight end had a productive few years under Gerry Faust in the mid-1980s.
Bavaro caught 55 passes for 771 yards and four touchdowns in two seasons as a regular player, including a senior year in 1984 where he earned AP All-America honors with 32 catches for 395 yards. In 1983, Bavaro helped the Irish win the Liberty Bowl and then make it to the Aloha Bowl the following year.
Bavaro entered the 1985 NFL draft and was a fourth-round pick by the New York Giants. Bavaro went on to have a ten-year pro career that included two pro bowl seasons and two Super Bowl wins with the Giants. Playing through just about every injury that came his way in college and the pros, Bavaro was certainly one of the physically tougher players to wear an Irish uniform.
2. Ken MacAfee
MacAfee played his high school football in Brockton, Massachusetts where he led the Brockton Boxers to two state titles in 1972 and 1973 and was a high-school All-American.
In his time at Notre Dame, the tight end was an All-American three times. During the 1977 season when the Irish won the national title, MacAfee caught 54 passes for 797 yards and six touchdowns. MacAfee was awarded the Walter Camp trophy that year. He finished his career at ND with 28 career receptions for 1,759 yards and 15 TDs.
In 1978, MacAfee was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers ninth overall. His NFL career didn’t last long as he was finished with the NFL by 1981. After that, he went on to attend dental school and later opened a practice back in Massachusetts. MacAfee was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1997.
1. Angelo Bertelli
The son of Italian immigrants in West Springfield, Bertelli won all-state honors in three sports at Cathedral High School.
In playing two and a half seasons playing tailback and quarterback for the Irish from 1941 to 1943, Bertelli completed 167 passes for 2578 yards and 28 touchdowns running the T formation for Frank Leahy.
In 1943, Bertelli played in just six games before the United States Marine Corps called him to active duty to fight in the Pacific theatre of World War II. But even with just six games under his belt that year, he won the Heisman trophy. The Irish would go on to win the national championship that year.
Just after that, he was the number one overall selection in the 1944 NFL draft by the Boston Yanks. Bertelli would not play pro ball, however, until he came back to the U.S. after his active duty was over in 1946. He played with the Los Angeles Dons and Chicago Rockets for a few years in the late forties before becoming a radio broadcaster in New Jersey for several years. He passed away in 1999 from brain cancer.