Few universities have as polarizing an affect on the college football landscape as the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Regardless of what side of the debate you find yourself on, there is no denying the fact that Notre Dame's storied program, rich in history and tradition, has produced a long line of NFL stars and Hall of Famers. As a result, football cards featuring key Notre Dame alumni are among the most collected in the hobby.
With a pedigree that includes the likes of Knute Rockne, Joe Montana, Joe Theismann, Tim Brown, Paul Hornung, Jerome Bettis, Ricky Watters, Rocky Bleier and Art Donovan, a look at the school's football alumni is a veritable who's-who of college football. The Notre Dame Alumni is also one of the most passionate and dedicated college football fan bases in the country. It has deep roots in the business markets of the Midwest and beyond. This rabid following is what has led to NBC's log-standing TV contract to air the school's home games.
Collecting college football cards of the players who have worn the blue and gold can be a fun pursuit regardless, of your collecting experience. Whether you are a die-hard fan, novice or seasoned collector, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish provides many options to choose from. Currently, there are three manufacturers for college football cards: Upper Deck, Press Pass, and SA-GE. It should be noted that Upper Deck currently holds the rights to the Collegiate Licensing Company, making them the only one of the three allowed to use collegiate logos. In the past, that license had been held by both SA-GE and Press Pass. Here is a look at just some of the key products and individual cards depicting fan-favorite Notre Dame players, past and present.
Key Players Through the Years
With a name made for football and a demeanor to boot, Rockne helped put Notre Dame on the college football landscape as both a player and coach. He was immensely influential in popularizing the use of the forward pass.
Key Knute Rockne Notre Dame Cards
- 1935 National Chicle Knute Rockne #9
- 1955 Topps All-American Knute Rockne #16
- 2008 Donruss Sports Legends Museum Collection Material Knute Rockne #16 #/250
- 2010 Panini Century Collection Relic Stamp Knute Rockne #6 #/250
A punishing runner, Bettis racked up an amazing 5.7 yards per rushing attempt during his collegiate career.
Key Jerome Bettis Notre Dame Cards
The prototypical college quarterback, Theismann set school records for yard and touchdowns. He led the Irish to a 20-3-2 record during his tenure.
Key Joe Theismann Notre Dame Cards
- 2007 Press Pass Legends Autographs Joe Theismann #84
- 2009 Press Pass Legends Saturday Signatures Autographs Joe Theirmann #SSJT
It's amazing to think that Joe Montana, with his multiple Super Bowl rings and MVP trophies, was once the third-string quarterback for the Irish before leading them to the 1977 NCAA National Title.
Key Joe Montana Notre Dame Cards
- 2007 Upper Deck College to Pros Autographa Joe Montana #JM #/10
- 2008 Press Pass Legends Saturday Signatures Autographa Joe Montana #SSJM SP
- 2009 Press Pass Fusion Autographa Joe Montana #SSJM
Brown was the winner of the 1987 Heisman Award, becoming the first wide receiver to be named college football's best player.
Key Tim Brown Notre Dame Cards
- 2006 Press Pass Legends Emerald Tim Brown #E68 #/25
- 2011 SP Authentic Sign of the Times Autograph Tim Brown #STBR
- 2011 SPx Tim Brown #5 #/350
- 2011 Upper Deck Exquisite Tim Brown #26 #/75
Zorich moved from linebacker to nose tackle his freshman year. He quickly took to the position, earning All-American honors the following year.
Key Chris Zorich Notre Dame Cards
- 1991 Pacific Chris Zorich RC #541
- 1991 Pro Set Chris Zorich RC #33
- 1991 Score Chris Zorich RC #579
- 1991 Ultra Chris Zorich RC #298
- 1991 Upper Deck Chris Zorich RC #10
A gifted, multi-talented back, Watters was as adapt at catching the ball out of the backfield as he was taking the hand-off.
Key Ricky Watters Notre Dame Cards
- 1991 Stadium Club Rickey Watters RC #60
- 1991 Ultra Rickey Watters RC #297
- 1991 Upper Deck Rickey Watters RC #9
A forner Biletnikoff Award Winner and All-American, Golden Tate was a key target for quarterback Jimmy Clausen. Both entered the NFL in 2010.
Key Golden Tate Notre Dame Cards
- 2010 Press Pass Saturday Signatures Golden Tate #GT
- 2010 Press Pass PE Game Day Gear Jersey Silver Golden Tate #GDGGT
- 2010 Press Pass Reflector Golden Tate #28 #/500
Synonymous and revered to this day, Holtz coached Notre Dame to the National Championship in the 1988 Fiesta Bowl.
Key Lou Holtz Notre Dame Cards
Key Notre Dame Football Card Products
The following sets focus heavily on multiple Fighting Irish players.
1955 Topps All-American is loaded with Notre Dame players including one depicting the fabled Four Horsemen of Harry Stuhldreher, Don Miller, Jim Crowley and Elmer Layden. The moniker gained popularity after a game between Notre Dame and Army on October 18, 1924. Beat reporter Grantland Rice was quoted as saying, "Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as famine, pestilence, destruction and death. These are only aliases. Their real names are Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden." Other great players in this set include Angel Bertelli and Johnny Lujack.
Unfortunately, 1990 Notre Dame Collegiate Collection fell victim to massive over-production. While the cards themselves may not be valuable, the set does provide an impressive checklist that chronicles Notre Dame's football program. While there are simple too many to list, rest assured all the key names are on the checklist. Some players, like Joe Montana, have multiple cards in the set.