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

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BLUEGOLDONLINE.COM PRESEASON 2022 65 ing only to Dartmouth and Cornell. He served two years in the U.S. Navy during World War II and was then selected with the fifth overall pick in the 1946 NFL Draft by the New York Giants. Connor felt a pro career could wait, though, and joined Frank Leahy in the post-war powerhouse that was Notre Dame, which brought him closer to home and his father, who was ill. Con- nor twice earned consensus All-Amer- ica honors as an Irish tackle and won the first Outland Trophy as the nation's best interior lineman in 1946. He was a two-time national champion, and cap- tain of the unbeaten 1947 Irish. GEORGE STROHMEYER Texas A&M (1942) To Notre Dame (1946-47) Stromeyer was a star in Texas high school football at McAllen, going on to play freshman ball at Texas A&M in 1942 before joining the Navy in 1943. While serving in the military, he played on several teams and won ser- vice football All-America honors in 1944 and 1945, attracting the attention of Leahy. Like Connor, he joined Leahy's Notre Dame team after the war and had an im- mediate impact, earning All-America honors at center for the 1946 national champs. As an indication of just how talent- laden the Irish were in those years, Strohmeyer lost his starting job the next season. PAT EILERS Yale (1985) To Notre Dame (1987-89) When Pat Eilers was starring for St. Thomas Academy in Minnesota in 1984, Lou Holtz was in his first of two seasons coaching the Minnesota Gophers. Ei- lers came from a family that included numerous Notre Dame alums. A broken collarbone ended his senior season, and neither the Gophers nor Irish offered him more than a chance to be a walk-on. Eilers decided his best mix of aca- demics and athletics would be at Yale. He got to play in the freshman version of "The Game," contributing to a victory over Harvard that fall. On a drive back to the Twin Cities from New Haven, Conn., in the spring of 1986, Eilers stopped in South Bend and visited with Holtz, who said he'd welcome him to the team as a walk-on with a chance to earn a scholarship. This time, Eilers took the deal, and pro- ceeded to make an impact with his un- relenting work ethic and versatility. He began as a scout team running back, and by the spring of 1987 was competing for the starting strong safety position. Along the way, he earned his coveted scholarship. For the 1988 sea- son, Eilers was moved again, this time to wide receiver. "I wasn't the most gifted athlete," Eilers said. "Coach Holtz was just try- ing to find me a spot that worked. I tell Coach Holtz that if he were a better re- cruiter, he wouldn't have had to play me." Eilers started at receiver in the epic showdown with No. 1 Miami — which was on a 36-game regular-season win- ning streak — at Notre Dame Stadium on Oct. 15, 1988. With the scored tied 21-21 midway through the third quarter, Holtz had his "secret weapon" carry the ball and Eilers responded with a 2-yard touchdown for a 28-21 lead. Eilers also made a number of special teams plays in helping the Irish to a 31-30 victory. Big victory over the 'Canes in hand, the Irish went on to win the national championship after finishing the season with an undefeated (12-0) record. ✦ Jim Lefebvre is an award-winning Notre Dame author and leads the Knute Rockne Memorial Society. He can be reached at: Former Yale running back Pat Eilers helped Notre Dame knock off No. 1 Miami en route to winning the national championship in 1988. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS For Your Summer Reading – Take A Step Back Into The Formative Decades Of The 20th Century Coach For A Na on: The Life and Times of Knute Rockne Is "the defi ni ve piece on this American hero." — COLLEGE FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME Order your autographed, inscribed copy and support the Knute Rockne Memorial Society. Visit or call 612-242-3581.

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