Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2020

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

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Page 42 of 47 FEBRUARY 2020 43 IRISH IN THE PROS BY ANDREW MENTOCK T he NFL Pro Bowl may not be the most popular all- star event among fans, but it still is a valuable way to recognize the best players the sport has to offer. This season, four former Notre Dame players were named starters in the Pro Bowl, notably three who play along the offensive line. They are Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith, Indianapo- lis Colts left guard Quenton Nelson, Dallas Cowboys right guard Zack Martin and Baltimore Ravens left tackle Ronnie Stanley. While this accolade means a lot to the players, they all expressed an appreciation for their current teammates. "It's cool to get recog- nized by players and fans and coaches, but it's a team game, so you've got to have a lot of good guys around you in order to play well," Smith told "It's all about winning ball games here. … If the coaches are happy with my play, that's all that matters." Smith and Martin have been Pro Bowl mainstays over the last half-de- cade. This is Smith's fifth consecutive appearance, while Martin has now made it in all six of his NFL seasons. When it comes to total Pro Bowl appearances among former Fighting Irish players, both are not far off from the all-time record. Only five players have more than Martin: Alan Page and Tim Brown (nine); Joe Montana and George Kunz (eight); and Dave Casper (seven). In each of his first two NFL seasons with the Colts, Nelson also has been a participant. This is the first Pro Bowl selec- tion for Stanley, who will start on the same side of the offensive line as Nelson — the same guard-tackle tandem that started on Notre Dame's left side in 2015. The most prominent former Notre Dame player to be snubbed from the Pro Bowl was linebacker Jaylon Smith, who finished seventh in the NFL in to- tal tackles with 141. Rookie linebacker Drue Tranquill also was one of the fa- vorites to earn the nod as the AFC's special teamer, but that spot was given to veteran wide receiver Matthew Slater of the New England Patriots. Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph also had another strong season, finishing fourth in the NFL in total touchdowns at his position with six. All is not lost, however, as each one of that trio could still be added to the Pro Bowl roster as an alter- nate. Players on teams that make the Super Bowl are not eligible to play in the Pro Bowl, since the NFL's all-star game takes place the weekend be- fore. If a player misses the Pro Bowl for this reason, they are still given the designation as an NFL Pro Bowl player. IRISH IN THE NFL PLAYOFFS • Buffalo Bills at Houston Tex- ans, Saturday, Jan. 4, 4:35 p.m. ET — Two former Notre Dame players are on the Texans roster: starting center Nick Martin and wide receiver Will Fuller. • Minnesota Viking at New Or- leans Saints, Jan. 5, 1:05 p.m. ET — Three players are part of this NFC wild card matchup: safety Harrison Smith and tight end Kyle Rudolph of the Vikings and linebacker Manti Te'o of the Saints. • San Francisco 49ers, first-round bye — With the No. 1 seed in the NFC, the 49ers get to kick their feet up during the opening round of playoffs. Two for- mer Notre Dame players are on their roster: starting right tackle Mike McGlinchey and backup defensive tackle Sheldon Day. • Green Bay Packers, first-round bye — The Packers are the No. 2 seed in the NFC and feature one recent Notre Dame p l a y e r o n t h e i r ro s t e r : running back Dexter Wil- liams, though he has been a healthy scratch for the ma- jority of the season. • Baltimore Ravens, first-round bye — With the No. 1 seed in the AFC, the Ravens get a weekend to rest up for the divisional round. They feature two former Notre Dame play- ers: starting left tackle Ronnie Stan- ley, who just may be the best player at his position in the NFL, and backup wide receiver Miles Boykin. ✦ Four Former Irish Players Named NFL Pro Bowl Starters Indianapolis Colts left guard Quenton Nelson has now made the Pro Bowl in each of his first two seasons in the league. PHOTO COURTESY INDIANAPOLIS COLTS NOTRE DAME IN THE NFL: WEEK 17 HIGHLIGHTS • Jaylon Smith (Played at Notre Dame from 2013-15), LB, Dallas Cowboys: Notched eight tackles (two solo) and his first career inter- ception in the 8-8 Cowboys' 47-16 win over the Redskins … Finished the season with 141 tackles, 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles … Ranked seventh in the NFL in tackles. • Julian Love (2015-18), CB, New York Gi- ants: Recorded eight tackles (seven solo), two tackles for loss and one pass defended in the 4-12 Giants' 34-17 loss to the Eagles … Notched 36 tackles, three passes defended, one interception and one forced fumble dur- ing his rookie campaign. • Golden Tate (2007-09), WR, New York Giants: Targeted eight times and made five catches for 68 yards and a touchdown in the Giants' loss to the Eagles … Hauled in 49 re- ceptions for 676 yards and six touchdowns in 10 games played.

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