ND’s All-Time Greatest QBs
Michael R. Steele wrote THE NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL ENCYCLOPEDIA. I have the Fourth Edition. Don’t rush out and buy it...
Among the many things I don’t like about the book is his list of ND’s All Time Greatest players. At QB he picked Joe Montana. With all due respect to the greatest NFL QB of all time, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
Joe Montana cannot be in the discussion of ND’s top QB. In the modern era (1943 forward), he is one of six QB’s who has led ND to a National Championship, so we’ll give him credit for that. He was not mentioned on any All American list and got no Heisman Trophy mention. His passing stats were ordinary.
Who are in the running for ND’s all-time greatest QB, in the modern era:
>Angelo Bertelli The Springfield* Rifle. Won the Heisman in 1943. Led us to the National Championship in 1943. One of two ND QB’s who was a 3-time Heisman vote getter (2nd, 6th, & 1st). Great passing stats for his era. Finished 3rdand 6th in NCAA in passes completed. College Football Hall of Fame. *ND has had several fine players from Springfield, MA, but that’s for another article.
>Johnny Lujack Took over for Bertelli during his Heisman season, after Angelo went to WWII, and continued our run to the N.C. Finished third in 1946 and won Heisman in 1947. Led ND to N.C. in both seasons. Twice the consensus first team All American. College Football Hall of Fame. A.P. Male Athlete of the Year. The only loss he suffered in two and a half years as starter was a 19-14 defeat to end the 1943 season by the Great Lakes Naval Station with less than a minute to play.
>Bob Williams Led ND to N.C. in 1949. Finished 5th and 6th in Heisman. Consensus First Team All American in 1950. College Football Hall of Fame. 1949 passer efficiency rating still ND’s best.
>Ralph Guglielmi Only the Iowa tie kept his 1953 from then N.C., although under today’s procedures we would have won. Finished fourth in 1954 Heisman. Consensus First Team All American in 1954. College Football Hall of Fame.
>Paul Hornung One of the most versatile athletes in ND history (along with Lujack). Heisman Trophy in 1956, despite losing record. Finished 5th the year before. All American as both HB and QB. College Football Hall of Fame. Led team in rushing and passing in 1956.
>John Huarte In only year as starter, won the Heisman. Only a low-down, cheating, Pac 10 Official kept him from leading ND to the 1964 National Championship. QB stats were ND’s single season best at that time. Consensus All American (ahead of Joe Namath).
>Terry Hanratty Our other three-time Heisman vote getter (6th, 9th, 3rd). Led ND to N.C. in 1966. Our top career passer for two decades. Consensus All American in 1968.
>Joe Theismann Second in Heisman in 1970 (to Jim Plunkett of Stanford). Our leading TD thrower for two decades. 1970 All American.
>Tom Clements Led ND to N.C. in 1973. 4th in Heisman in 1974.
>Joe Montana Led ND to N.C. in 1977. 25/25 TD-INT ratio.
>Tony Rice Option QB led ND to 1988 N.C. with his legs (led team in rushing two years) and not his arm (sub .500 %). Only he and Hornung in modern led team in rushing and passing.
>Rick Mirer Leading TD passer for ND until Ron Powlus. 41/23 TD-INT ratio.
>Kevin McDougal Led us to near N.C. in 1993 with one of best passing % seasons.
>Ron Powlus Set all ND passing records as our only four year starter at QB. 52/27 TD-INT ratio.
>Brady Quinn Led ND to two B.C.S. bowl games. Won Sammy Baugh and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Awards as top QB in the country. Won Maxwell Award. Obliterated every ND passing record. Finished 3rd in Heisman. Cingular All America Player of the Year. Threw more TD passes (37) in his junior year than any other ND QB except Powlus and Mirer amassed in their entire college career. 95/39 TD-INT ratio.
For my money, Lujack is the easy winner. Bertelli is just behind him. Until I studied all the games and records, I would not
have ranked Bob Williams as high as I am now, at #3. Hanratty is in the mix at #4.
Clements and Guglielmi and Theismann are on the next tier.
Huarte and Rice had the great one year. McDougal did also, and, like Huarte, came up just short of a N.C. Montana had a
National Championship and the best NFL career and several Comeback-Kid wins, but no personal acclaim. Brady Quinn
ranks ahead of Ron Powlus and Rick Mirer among the guys with the big numbers but no National Championships. Hornung
gets attention as a very versatile two-way player (as was Lujack), but no wins to show for his tremendous skills. He did not
win the Heisman for the team’s record or his prowess as a QB.
By the way, I’m a good friend and admirer of John Huarte. We first met in Summer School of 1964 when he was rehabbing
his shoulder and I was rehabbing my grades. His 1964 season was magical. I knew Brady Quinn during his time on campus.
Weis was able to develop the Quinn to Samardzija duo into our best ever (for total stats). Other great flingers and clingers
were Huarte to Snow; Theismann to Gatewood; Hanratty to Seymour; and Powlus to Mayes. Terry Hanratty and I have
become great email pen pals. It will be fun to watch his son starting on the offensive line next season. Powlus and I had a
good working relationship when he came back here as QB Coach. I admired Johnmy Lujack when he served as the color
man for the New York Football Giants while I was growing up in Massachusetts when the Giants were our TV “home team”.
It was a thrill to have Lujack stand next to me at my first Notre Dame Pep Rally. I bumped into Joe Theismann outside the
Stadium before my first game working for the Athletic Department. When I lived in he D. C. area in the late 70’s, I saw him
quite a bit. He quarterbacked the Redskins to the win in the only Super Bowl (in the Rose Bowl) I have ever attended. He
was an exciting player with his passing and running versatility.