Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 9, 2017

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

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52 OCT. 9, 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI N otre Dame's meeting with North Carolina at Chapel Hill Oct. 7 is the first of three in a four-game span against teams from the Tar Heel State. The Fighting Irish will also host North Carolina State Oct. 28 and Wake For- est Nov. 4. It is the first time Notre Dame will play three schools from the same state since 2010, when it faced Mich- igan, Michigan State and Western Michigan. Competing against three teams from the same state in one season also occurred in 1963-64 and 2006-07 with Stanford, UCLA and USC all on the docket. Michigan and California have been more natural recruiting areas for Notre Dame through the years, but North Carolina has been a late bloomer, providing several qual- ity players in the past decade, es- pecially since the Irish joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2013 — including as a partial member in football. In Notre Dame's 130 years on the gridiron, only 27 players from North Carolina have seen action for the Irish. The first was halfback Art Denchfield (North Asheville) dur- ing the 1927 season, but it would be nearly 30 years before someone else from he Tar Heel State would follow suit. One-third of the scholarship players from the state were signed the past four years by head coach Brian Kelly, including current cap- tain Greer Martini, plus sophomore defensive end Julian Okwara and freshman kicker Jonathan Doerer. Several years ago, BlueandGold. com ranked North Carolina as the No. 21 most productive state in Notre Dame's recruiting history. The com- bination now of the school's affili- ation in the ACC and the growing prominence of North Carolina in football could up that ranking among the top 15 in the years to come. Here are our top 10 Notre Dame players from North Carolina: 1. Al Hunter (Greenville, 1973, 1975-76) When he enrolled, Hunter 's 9.3 speed in the 100-yard dash was be- lieved to be the fastest ever by a Notre Dame football player. It was showcased in the national title con- test that season when he returned a kickoff for a 93-yard score in the 24-23 victory versus No. 1 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Suspended in 1974, Hunter returned and rushed for 558 yards and eight scores in 1975. In 1976, he became the first Notre Dame player to break the 1,000-yard rushing barrier in a season with 1,058 and 12 touchdowns — not including 102 more and two scores in the 20-9 Gator Bowl win over Penn State. He also caught 15 passes for 189 yards and a TD that season. Alas, he was dismissed again from school prior to Notre Dame's 1977 march to the national title and made history when he was the first player ever taken in the NFL Supplemental Draft. 2. Dave Waymer (Charlotte, 1976-79) The extraordinary and versatile athlete saved the Navy game as a freshman with a clutch pass bro- ken up in the end zone in the 27-21 win. The next season for the national champs he started at flanker before shifting back to corner his last two seasons and becoming the first Notre Dame football captain from the state. Waymer developed into a second- round pick and intercepted 48 passes during a 13-year NFL career before passing away at age 34. 3. Lee Becton (Ernul, 1991-94) Although not as fast as Hunter — head coach Lou Holtz joked that Becton was not fast enough to pull a hamstring — the elusive running back enjoyed a sensational junior campaign in 1993 for the 11-1 Irish, rushing for 1,044 yards and a superb Greenville, N.C., native Al Hunter became the first Notre Dame player to break the 1,000-yard rushing barrier in a season with 1,058 and 12 touchdowns during the regular season in 1976. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME MEDIA RELATIONS Well-Tar Heeled North Carolina has become more prominent in Notre Dame's recruiting the past decade

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