Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 26, 2016

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

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Page 52 of 55 SEPT. 26, 2016 53 1946, only seven (including the afore‑ mentioned four) made the first team, leaving unparalleled depth. Meanwhile, joining the already deep roster as four new starters were military veterans who had not previ‑ ous played at Notre Dame but were recruited by Leahy overseas: • Tackle George Connor, who had played at Holy Cross in 1942‑43, is in both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame. • Halfback Emil "Red" Sitko, a star on the semi‑pro Iowa Pre‑Flight war‑time team that handed national champ Notre Dame its lone defeat in 1943 on a Hail Mary pass. • Center George Strohmeyer had previously played at Texas A&M and earned All‑America accolades for the Irish in 1946 — only to be beaten out for the starting role by Bill Walsh, who had lettered as a Notre Dame freshman in 1945. • "Jungle Jim" Martin was a larger‑ than‑life figure at end and tackle who enrolled as a 22‑year‑old freshman with a huge tattoo in which a sword goes through a dragon with the words "Death Before Dishonor." As a member of the Marines' Fifth Amphibious Reconnaissance Battal‑ ion (a past version of Navy SEALS), he was awarded a Bronze Star for his role in the Battle of Tinian, among other heroics. Swimming in hazard‑ ous waters, he and his three‑man unit discovered a string of sea mines where Allied forces were scheduled to land, prompting the invasion to switch to safer landing havens. And end Leon Hart, the 1949 Heis‑ man winner, led a prominent fresh‑ man class and was able to make it to the second unit. With only 36 players allowed to travel on road trips, well over a dozen monogram men or former starters on top‑10 teams could not even make the travel roster. Lineman George Tobin was eli‑ gible for a fifth season in 1947, but Leahy in all seriousness told him he wouldn't play and would have a bet‑ ter shot of seeing action profession‑ ally. He started at guard for the New York Giants in 1947. Art Statuto was the No. 4 or 5 cen‑ ter in 1946 and in 1947. He couldn't get on the field enough to earn a monogram. He then started in the 1950 NFL Championship Game for the Los Angeles Rams. • Seven of the 11 starters on that 1947 team are in the College Football Hall of Fame: ends Leon Hart (Heis‑ man) and Jim Martin, tackles George Connor (Outland) and Ziggy Czar‑ obski, guard Bill Fischer (Outland), quarterback John Lujack (Heisman) and running back Emil Sitko. No single team in college football can match that. In college football history, only the 1946 and 1947 Notre Dame teams have had seven Hall of Famers on the field at the same time. The results spoke for themselves: • The 1946 Notre Dame team is one of four in college football annals to finish No. 1 nationally in both total offense (441.3 yards per game) and total defense (141.7, a now unbreak‑ able school record). It also allowed only 2.7 points per game. • In 1946 and 1947, Notre Dame never trailed in a game, a mind‑bog‑ gling achievement in itself. • The No. 1 rushing attack (340.1 yards per game) had 13 different players gain more than 100 yards, and 12 averaged at least 4.5 yards per carry. A combination of true veterans and youth created the great Fighting Irish football dynasty of the late 1940s. ✦ Get the whole incredible story on DVD a t: – BlueGo ldOn lin e .c o m – Shop.UND.Com – More info at

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