Blue and Gold Illustrated

April 2020

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

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52 APRIL 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED WHERE HAVE YOU GONE? Former captain, All-American, national champ and first-round pick joins rare company BY LOU SOMOGYI F ifty years ago in January 1970, linebacker Jim Lynch became the first Notre Dame football player to win both a national title with the Fighting Irish and a Super Bowl, achieving the latter with the Kansas City Chiefs. This February, Andy Heck became the most recent former Irish player to join that unique company — and likewise with the Chiefs, as their offensive line coach. How fitting the symmetry is between Lynch and Heck. Lynch's freshman year in 1963 saw the Fighting Irish finish 2-7, yet his senior year in 1966 when he was the lone team captain they were consensus national champs. Likewise, Heck's first two sea- sons in 1985-86 were the school's first back-to-back losing cam- paigns in the 20th century (5-6 both times), but as a senior cap- tain he helped steer a 12-0 finish and most recent national title. Lynch and Heck were real- life versions of the mythical Jack Armstrong All-American Boy fashioned in days of yore by General Mills. They especially embodied Notre Dame with their natural leadership traits, skill, determination, scholarly demeanors and immense pride in the school they represented. At both Notre Dame and Kansas City, Heck said becom- ing No. 1 went beyond talent. "For me it's more about seeing the similarities of what separates a good team, a really good team, and then a championship team," Heck said. "Our championship team at Notre Dame was talented — but maybe not as tal- ented as the next two years. But there was some magical, if you will, combination of leadership, chemistry, grit, and certainly we had to have some breaks go our way. "Similarly, we had talent here at Kansas City, but also football guys who created the right leadership and chem- istry. It's a terrific culture we got going. We also had to have some breaks go our way, and they did. That sure reminded me of '88. "Just one bad bounce of the ball and you don't end up undefeated, or you don't end up coming back from 24 points down in a playoff game [24-0 versus Houston be- fore winning 51-31]. It was very special that way." Lynch played 11 years in the NFL and started each of his final 140 games (including playoffs), while Heck played 12 seasons with 164 starts along the offensive line. Incidentally, both also had brothers who played football at the Naval Academy. THE RISE TO GLORY A member of head coach Gerry Faust's final recruiting class at Notre Dame in 1985, the Fairfax, Va., native Heck's affinity for the school — his other official visits were to Stanford and North Carolina — outweighed the football program's struggles on it. The Irish posted a modest record of 25-20-1 from 1981-84 and Faust was on the hot seat during Heck's freshman year as a tight end. A 5-6 finish in 1985, culmi- nated by a 58-7 defeat at Miami, resulted in a coaching change to Lou Holtz. Personnel short- ages and an extremely arduous schedule produced another 5-6 outcome in 1986. However, the 1986 season that saw Notre Dame lose five games by 14 points — including 24-23 to Big Ten champ Michigan, 21-19 at SEC champ LSU and 24-19 to national champ Penn State — ended with a dramatic 38-37 vic- tory at archrival USC after trail- ing 37-20 in the fourth quarter. Heck scored his first career touchdown in that game, and later bulled through several would-be tacklers for a crucial two-point conversion that cut the deficit to 37-35. Improvement continued the next season with an 8-1 start in which Heck became the full-time starting tight end and a prolific blocker while finishing with five catches for 59 yards and a touchdown. Alas, the Irish lost their final three games while getting outscored 80-30, and the staff was shaken up again with several new assistants hired, most notably esteemed of- fensive line coach Joe Moore. Still, the consecutive No. 1-ranked recruiting classes in 1987 and 1988 that included the top-rated tight ends in Frank Jacobs (1987) and Derek Brown (1988) fueled opti- mism about the future. "I'm sure they had talked about it as a staff, but Joe Moore first approached me and said, 'Hey, would you like to play in the NFL?'" the 6-6 Heck recalled. "I said, 'Yeah, that's definitely a dream of mine.' Then he said, 'You should think about coming into my room because you're not going to make it as a tight end but you have a shot as a tackle.'" MISSION ACCOMPLISHED Heck changed his jersey number from 88 to 66 and that winter began a process of caloric intake that elevated his playing weight by about 30 pounds to 265 ("267 at the NFL Combine," Heck said) — a runt by today's standards Heck (far right), the Kansas City Chiefs' offensive line coach, cel- ebrated the team's victory in Super Bowl LIV with his family. He is one of the few who has won a national title with the Fighting Irish and a Super Bowl as either a player or assistant coach. PHOTO COURTESY ANDY HECK Andy Heck, 1985-88 Tight End/Offensive Tackle

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