Blue and Gold Illustrated

March 2024

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

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86 MARCH 2024 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED IRISH ECHOES JIM LEFEBVRE F rom an early age, Indiana native Noble Kizer exhibited a skill for athletic leadership. As a student at Plymouth (Ind.) High School in the 1910s, he helped organize and coach the school's basketball and track and field teams, starring in both sports. The school did not have a football team — making it all the more remark- able that Kizer ended up as a regular on one of Notre Dame's most famous football teams, the 1924 national cham- pions. Kizer dropped out of high school in 1918 to join the U. S. Marine Corps dur- ing the height of World War I and was sent to Quantico, Va., for training. After the Armistice was signed on Nov. 11, 1918, Kizer returned to Plymouth, and he graduated high school in 1919. He eventually made his way 25 miles north and began working at the South Bend YMCA to earn money for college. There, Knute Rockne saw him work- ing out and was impressed enough to ask Kizer to enroll at Notre Dame and come out for football. At 5-foot-8, 165 pounds, he was the mirror image of Rockne. But while Rockne had played end at Notre Dame from 1910-13, Kizer became one of Rockne's "watch-charm guards" – smaller stature fellows who used quickness, leverage and guile to lead interference for the Irish backs. Kizer split time at right guard with the bigger George Vergara (6-1, 187) in 1923, his junior year. Vergara was ex- pected back in 1924, but when it was discovered that he played one half of one game for Fordham three years ear- lier before coming to South Bend from the Bronx, he was declared ineligible. Vergara spent the 1924 season as an as- sistant coach, leaving Kizer to become the regular at the position. Thus, it's Kizer who became famous as one of the "Seven Mules" blocking for the "Four Horsemen" in 1924. The team went undefeated and became the first football team to play in New York City, Chicago, and Southern California in the same season, defeating Stanford in the Jan. 1, 1925 Rose Bowl, 27-10, to complete a perfect season. Kizer, staying true to his Indiana roots, also was a standout on the Irish basketball team, under head coach George Keogan, and he was elected cap- tain of the 1924-25 squad. In a 1922 football game at Georgia Tech, Kizer is said to have foreshadowed future Irish head coach Gerry Faust, en- couraging his teammates to say a Hail Mary on the sideline as Notre Dame strove for a late victory. Years later, the practice was linked to attempting a lengthy last-minute forward pass, en- tering football vernacular forever. The Four Horsemen and Seven Mules were all seniors in the fall of 1924 – and all 11 of them were college football coaches in the fall of 1925, testament to the preparation Rockne imparted and the respect other colleges had for Rockne's success and system. Kizer was able to stay in his home state of Indiana, landing the job as line coach for Purdue Kizer had a highly successful tenure as Purdue's head football coach from 1930-36, guiding the Boilermakers to Big Ten championships in 1931 and 1932. He also served as the school's athletic director from 1933 until his untimely death in 1940. PHOTO COURTESY PURDUE ATHLETICS Noble Kizer, A Regular On The 1924 National Championship Team, Went On To Coach At Purdue

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