Another week, another trio of weird facts about Notre Dame Fighting Irish football for your reading pleasure. On last week’s pod Jude and Brendan were talking about Notre Dame’s ability to put players in the professional ranks, and it struck me that they missed an important footnote in that conversation. People forget..
Notre Dame is Represented in Professional Wrestling
If you’ve followed Notre Dame recruiting for the last several years, you probably remember the name Parker Boudreaux: the young man from Winter Garden, Florida committed to play offensive line for the Irish with an iconic video.
That had a lot of Irish fans excited about Boudreaux’s future with the program when he joined the class of 2016 - unfortunately that future didn’t pan out as Boudreaux chose to enter the transfer portal so he could play close to home with the UCF Knights, where he became a two-year starter before leaving the sport due to concussions.
That wasn’t the end of Boudreaux’s athletic career though, as the flair for the dramatic shown in his commitment video blossomed into a professional wrestling career. He was in the WWE under the name Harland, appearing as a villainous enforcer within its narratives in the spring of 2022. He then signed under a different banner, All Elite Wrestling, under his given name. Don’t let anyone tell you Notre Dame can’t recruit bad dudes:
Notre Dame Returned Not One, But Two Blocked PATs for Two Points in 2016
I don’t blame Irish fans who do what they can to forget the 2016 season, which in my living memory is surpassed in futility only by 2007. The miserable results of that season’s games marred some pretty insane moments from a team that was obviously capable of more. Example: within the first five weeks of the season, Notre Dame’s special teams blocked and returned for two points not one, but two PATs by opposing teams. Jarron Jones blocked both kicks, with the first returned in the opener at the Texas Longhorns for two points by Shaun Crawford:
Here's the blocked extra point (and return) from Notre Dame that forced overtime: pic.twitter.com/ebRVCJjxNY— Yahoo Sports College Football (@YahooSportsCFB) September 5, 2016
And the second by Cole Luke on October 1 against the Syracuse Orange:
Jarron Jones blocked his 2nd PAT of the year and 6th of his career in our win over Syracuse.— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) October 2, 2016
Cole Luke returned it for 2 points. pic.twitter.com/x3rz2WlpWu
It’s a testament to how brutal 2016 was that the Irish twice achieved an insane, momentum-shifting defensive feat - which has only happened once more in all the years since - within 30 days and came out of that stretch with a losing record.
Jonas Gray WENT OFF On the Indianapolis Colts
Notre Dame fans remember Jonas Gray as a talented but snake-bitten running back who had finally found his groove and was becoming a serious NFL prospect in his senior season before suffering a heartbreaking ACL, MCL and LCL tear on Senior Day in 2011.
That injury took Gray out of the limelight for several years, but he never quit. After returning to full strength, he toiled on NFL scout teams into the 2014 season, which began with him signed to the New England Patriots’ practice squad. By mid-October he was called up to the active roster, and by week 11 he was the starter as the Patriots took the field against the Colts. And on that day, the people of southern Indiana learned to fear his name. I am blocked from embedding NFL highlights on this site, so click here and bear witness to the absolute ownage.
201 yards on 37 carries and four touchdowns. That is likely more production than the Patriots expected to get from Gray in the entire season, and he got it in one game. Strangely, it was also pretty much the last we heard from Gray in the pros, as he was benched the following week and inactive for most of the Patriots’ remaining games that season before being released, then got only a few carries the next season in Miami and Jacksonville before retiring. But after a long and arduous road he got his moment in the sun, and it was glorious.