SOUTH BEND, Ind. (BVM) – Notre Dame football is a nationally recognized and respected program. With the most Pro Football Hall of Famers, 13 national championships and many notable alumni, the Fighting Irish have set a standard for excellence during their lifetime. While the team has fallen off a bit in the 21st century, not winning a national championship since 1988, the program has still found some success including an appearance in the 2013 BCS National Championship game and two appearances in the College Football Playoff.
Despite this perceived downward trend for Notre Dame, the program has still been able to churn out NFL talent, even up to this season. In a poll conducted by NFL Communications, Notre Dame had the fifth-most former players on NFL kickoff weekend rosters for the 2022 season. The Fighting Irish’s 37 players trailed only Alabama (58), LSU (52), Ohio State (52) and Georgia (44).
While the total number of players is impressive, Notre Dame also led the league with the amount of players at specific positions. The Irish led the NFL with five tight ends on kickoff weekend rosters while also being tied with LSU, Michigan and Ohio State for the most guards in the league with four.
The five tight ends that once called South Bend home are Cole Kmet of the Chicago Bears, Kyle Rudolph of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Durham Smythe of the Miami Dolphins, Tommy Tremble of the Carolina Panthers and Brock Wright of the Detroit Lions. Rudolph leads the group in both experience and success, as a 12-year NFL veteran and two-time Pro Bowler.
In addition to the program’s strength at tight end, the Fighting Irish also have four guards in the NFL: Zack Martin of the Dallas Cowboys, Quenton Nelson of the Indianapolis Colts, Liam Eichenberg of the Miami Dolphins and Aaron Banks of the San Francisco 49ers. Martin is considered the best of the bunch with seven Pro Bowl selections, five first-team All-Pro picks and being a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s 2010s All-Decade team, though many would argue that Nelson is the next great offensive guard.
While the Fighting Irish don’t appear to have a strong true guard prospect that could enter the 2023 NFL Draft, the team’s center, Jarrett Patterson, is considered to be among the best at his position. Though this may not add to the team’s numbers for guards in the league, the fact the program is still developing strong offensive line prospects makes for a strong chance the team maintains a hold on the position into the future.
As for tight ends, it appears Notre Dame will be adding yet another member to its strong NFL group. Current Fighting Irish tight end Michael Mayer is considered by many pundits to be the top tight end prospect for the 2023 NFL Draft. The 2021 third-team All-American is currently leading the Irish with 15 receptions and two receiving touchdowns while adding 145 receiving yards, good for No. 2 on the team. Given the 6-foot-4, 265-pound junior’s strong season, expect him to be highly coveted by NFL teams when he eventually enters the league.
Although Notre Dame may not have the same dominance it showed in the 20th century, the program has proven it can develop great NFL players. With a high number of Fighting Irish alumni in the league and a number of others heading down the pipe, expect Notre Dame to stay near the top of the list of alumni in the NFL for years to come.