Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 17, 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 52 of 55 SEPT. 17, 2018 53 Irish in a 1995-96 home-and-home, with Notre Dame easily winning 41-0 at home in 1995 before needing to rally in the fourth quarter for a 14-7 victory the next season in Nashville. Here is our all-time top five Notre Dame players from the state of Tennessee: 1. GOLDEN TATE (Hendersonville, 2007‑09) The most electrifying triple threat for the Fighting Irish since Rocket Ismail (1988-90), the 2009 Biletnikoff Award winner turned pro after a junior season in which he caught 93 passes that averaged 16.1 yards per reception and included 15 touchdowns. He also rushed for 186 yards that season, averaging 7.4 yards per carry, and had an 87-yard punt return for a touchdown at Pitt. The second-round pick was the top receiver for the 2014 Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, and has caught anywhere from 90 to 99 passes each of the last four seasons with the Detroit Lions. 2. WILLIE FRY (Memphis, 1973, 1975‑77) Inexorably linked with classmate and fellow "bookend" Ross Browner, the Browner-Fry tandem is the gold standard at Notre Dame for pass rushing duos at end, helping the Irish to two national titles, first as freshmen in 1973 (when Fry played behind Jim Stock, while Browner starred on the other side) and then in 1977 when both were captains. Fry also was one of 23 two-time captains so far in school history. Named a UPI second-team All- American as a senior, Fry finished his career with 214 tackles, 29 for lost yardage. He was a second-round selection of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1978, but his NFL career never got on track because of two major injuries. He began a successful investment career in New York City's Wall Street, and he often served as a host and tour guide through the New York Stock Exchange for the Notre Dame basketball team when it was in town for a game. Fry died in 1998 of a heart attack at age 43. 3. HARRISON SMITH (Knoxville, 2007‑11) A safety who served as the sole captain at Notre Dame in 2011, Smith developed tremendously his last two seasons under Brian Kelly's staff and became the first Irish player from Tennessee to become a first-round pick. He recorded 307 career tackles with the Fighting Irish, and all seven of his interceptions came in 2010, three in the Sun Bowl win over Miami that came in a span of five minutes and 15 seconds during the second quarter. Today, he is one of the premier and best-paid safeties in the NFL. 4. CHUCK LANZA (Germantown, 1983‑87) A powerful center who was a second-team AP and UPI All- American as a fifth-year senior. He served as a co-captain in head coach Lou Holtz's second season when the offensive line, with four fifth-year senior starters, was the heart and soul of the first Notre Dame team in seven years to receive a bid to a major bowl (Cotton). Lanza was drafted in the third round by the Pittsburgh Steelers and played three seasons in the NFL. Other than Tate, each of the top five from Tennessee was a Notre Dame captain. 5. ALEX BARS (Nashville, 2014‑present) Enters his third season as a starter at left guard after starting all 12 contests at right tackle in 2016 and all 13 at right guard last season. Our research shows he is the first Notre Dame lineman to start at three different positions in three seasons since Art Hunter, the No. 2 pick in the 1954 NFL Draft, who lined up at center (1951), end (1952) and tackle (1953). Named a preseason first-team All- American by Street & Smith's, Bars' versatility and potential dominance — especially in the opening game win over Michigan — should make him one of the top offensive linemen in next spring's NFL Draft. Special mention also goes to: • Matt Shelton (Collierville, 2001-05), who in 2004 set the Notre Dame single-season record for yards per catch (25.8) with his 20 grabs, six of which were touchdowns. He also nabbed 28 receptions as a fifth-year senior under first-year head coach Charlie Weis. • Current kicker Justin Yoon (Nashville, 2015-present), who in his first three seasons has converted 80.8 percent of his field goals, easily the best among Irish players with at least 50 attempts. • Joe Signaigo (Memphis, 1943, 1946-47), a reserve guard who played on national title units in 1943, 1946 and 1947, and then three years in the pros. • S o p h o m o re d e f e n s i v e e n d Thomas Knight (Memphis, 1993), a starter on the 11-1 team in 1993 before later becoming ineligible. ✦ Fifth-year senior left guard and team captain Alex Bars is the latest in a line of top players from the state of Tennessee. PHOTO BY RICK KIMBALL

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