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Notre Dame Football: Five of the most disrespected Irish players from the past 20 years

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Not exactly underrated

Stanford v Notre Dame Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

We all get into arguments all the time when it comes to sports, and fans of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish do a lot of that arguing with one another. Many of those battles revolve around the careers of certain players, and there are arguments about greatness that actually exclude a player altogether — which can be criminal.

So that’s what this list is about... disrespected Notre Dame football players. While you can probably say Manti Te’o is one of the most disrespected players of all-time, 98% of our fanbase loves him far too much to be “disrespected” and the other 2% are stupid.

As you roll through this list — you’ll understand what I’m getting at with these fuzzy parameters.

Trevor Laws

Notre Dame v Penn State Photo by Ned Dishman/Getty Images

I bet some of you read that name and it was the first time you thought of him in years. That’s disrespectful — and that’s what I’m talking about. The chances are pretty good that you’ve been involved in a conversation about the best defensive lineman in recent history, and rattled off names like Stephon Tuitt, Louis Nix, Julian Okwara and others without naming Laws. His best season came in what was arguably Notre Dame football’s worst season ever. 2007 is certainly a year we would all like to forget, but as a defensive end in a 3-4 scheme, Laws racked up 112 tackles. To put that in some perspective, Manti Te’o had 113 tackles in his senior year with one extra game.

Ryan Grant

Grant had an up and down career at Notre Dame, and unfortunately for everyone involved, an issue with fumbles put a massive stain on his time with the Irish. Ryan rushed for over 1000 yards in his sophomore year, but when Julius Jones returned from a year long hiatus from Notre Dame, Jones got the majority of carries and Grant’s production was basically cut in half. In 2004, an injury sidelined Grant in the season opening loss against the BYU Cougars, and in the following game against the Michigan Wolverines, freshman Darius Walker began his takeover at running back for the Irish. Grant went undrafted in the NFL Draft, but he is arguably the most successful Irish running back in the NFL since Jerome Bettis.

Tommy Rees

Tommy Rees will never be considered as one of the greatest Notre Dame quarterback that ever put on the gold helmet — but he should never be someone that fans talk down about. It happen all the time, and it’s pretty frustrating. After all...Notre Dame’s 2010 season was saved by Rees (a freshman) with a four game winning streak to end the season. Wins over a highly ranked Utah Utes squad, and the first win against the USC Trojans since 2001. The Irish then went on to beat up the Miami-Florida Hurricanes in the Sun Bowl. Rees was also instrumental in Notre Dame’s 2012 season and came off the bench a handful of times to save the day — and the season. Rees is so disrespected by some fans, that when hired by the Irish as its QB coach and now offensive coordinator, they pointed to his play on the field (which they felt was unmoving) was used against him as a coach. Nevermind the fact that it was Tommy’s football IQ that made up for his lack of physical dominance.

Sam Young

Penn State Nittany Lions v Notre Dame Fighting Irish Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

When talking about O-Line U, few fans probably mention big Sam Young in those discussions — which is a damn shame. Young came to Notre Dame as a 5-Star prospect in Charlie Weis’s first full recruiting class, and he was put to work right away. As a freshman, Young became the starter at right tackle for the season opener against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, and then he went on to start the next 49 games straight. That’s 50 starts in 4 years for Young where he played both right and left tackle for the Irish. Sam was a first team freshman All-American in 2006, but he never really got much national recognition after that — especially with the way Notre Dame played as a team from 2007-2009. While Mike McGlinchey, Ronnie Stanley, and Zack Martin are better players, Sam Young was still really good and had a 10 year career in the NFL.

Jimmy Clausen

Clausen is one of the most polarizing players in Notre Dame history. Many Irish fans flat-out hated Jimmy, and much of their hate stemmed from a bad haircut and a brash commitment announcement. It never helped Jimmy that his freshman year was in 2007 when Notre Dame was just awful all over, and then played with defenses in 2008 and 2009 that would probably have given up 21+ to some high schools. If you just go back to the tape though — Jimmy was a beautiful quarterback with an incredible arm, and a toughness that is always overlooked. I’ve gone off on 30 minute rants before about Clausen on several podcasts, and I feel like I’m tilting at windmills with many fans. Clausen was the best pure-passing quarterback in Notre Dame history, and should be shown a lot more respect by Notre Dame fans.