The role of Captain in amateur and professional sports has evolved over the years...
Initially, there were no professional “coachers”.
And, in college games and Olympic sports, it was considered illegal or unethical to have a paid person “coach” the amateurs. Later on, it became acceptable to have paid coaches, but only during the pre-season period.
In the early days of professional baseball, the “Captain” was what we would today call a Playing Manager. Some of them got nicknamed “Cap” because of that role. It took many decades before there were no playing managers in Major League Baseball.
When college football became more popular, the Big Ten put forth a rule that the Head Coach had to be a faculty member. Michigan objected and dropped out of the conference for a number of years, because Fielding Yost was not part of their faculty. There was also a penalty in those days for “coaching from the sidelines”.
When Captains had the important role back in those days, there was NEVER more than one team captain, since everyone played both ways and only this one man was in charge.
So, who were Notre Dame’s first Captains:
1887 Henry Luhn RH-The founder of our first team. Later a prominent physician in Washington. Helped found the football team at Gonzaga
1888 Edward Prudhomme RH-A key position in those days
1890 No team
1891 No team
1892 Pat Coady QB-in those days, the QB was the field general, but would not pass or run, a blocker and often a kicker
1893 Frank Keough RH
1894 Keough This was the first year we had a “Head Coach”, but he also played some games
1895 Dan Casey RG-in later years, a lineman would be a much more likely choice than a back—our Head Coach also played some games
1896 Frank Hering QB-Trained by Amos Alonzo Stagg, at Univ. of Chicago—Hering called “The Father of Notre Dame Football”, also a playing coach for ND
1897 Jack Mullen RE
1899 Mullen James McWeeney, the Head Coach later became the SB Chief of Police
1900 John Farley FB-nicknamed Tiger Lilly. One of our great early three-sport athletes. Later a CSC Priest. The only Rector with a dorm named after him.
1901 Al Fortin RT
1902 Red Salmon FB-ND’s first national “star”, being named to Walter Camp’s third team
1904 Frank Shaughnessy RE-two sport star. Future Major League Baseball Player. Minor League all-star. Long-time President of the International League
1905 Pat Beacom LG-Big scorer for ND, from the time that everyone could carry the ball
1906 Bob Bracken QB
1907 Dom Callicrate RH
1908 Red Miller LH
1909 Cap Edwards LT
1910 Ralph Dimmick RT
1911 Luke Kelly RT
1912 Gus Dorais QB-Incredible leader; also gave a Commencement Address. Our first great field goal kicker, also
1913 Knute Rockne LE-pretty good leader himself………..roommate of Dorais
1914 Keith Jones LT
1915 Freeman Fitzgerald RG
1916 Stan Cofall LH-one of ND’s All-Time greats
1917 Jim Phelan QB
1918 Pete Bahan RH-This was Rockne‘s first year as Head Coach
1926, 1933, and 1936, were the only years with two Captains, until 1957. It became more common after that. Leahy used “game captains” during the 1946 National Championship season.
It is noteworthy that some outstanding future Head Football Coaches never became a Team Captain at Notre Dame. Among those were Charley Bachman; Curly Lambeau; Frank Thomas; Buck Shaw; Harry Baujan; Slip Madigan; Harry Stuhldreyer; Maurice “Clipper” Smith; Elmer Layden; and Frank Leahy.