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Top 10 Notre Dame defensive players of all time

Top 10 Notre Dame defensive players of all time
Manti Te'o was a Heismann Trophy finalist for his stellar senior season in 2012. (Credit: Matt Cashore/USA TODAY Sports)
Rachel Huser

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (BVM) — Like all positions, Notre Dame has an impressive list when it comes to players on the defensive side of the ball, from defensive backs to defensive linemen. Here are the top 10 Notre Dame defenders of all time. 

10. Kyle Hamilton, 2019-2022

As a safety, Hamilton notched 138 tackles, eight interceptions and one touchdown. He was named an All-American in 2021. The Baltimore Ravens drafted him with the 14th overall pick this past spring. 

9. Justin Tuck, 2002-2004

Tuck recorded 24.5 sacks and 164 tackles — including 42 for a loss — as a defensive end in his career. In 2002, Tuck posted 13.5 sacks, a Notre Dame single-season record. His 19 tackles for loss that season remain the third-best in a single season.  

8. Harrison Smith, 2008-2010

The Tennesse native is the only player in Notre Dame history to register more than 200 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and 15 pass breakups in a career. As a safety, Smith recorded 219 tackles, one forced fumble and seven interceptions. Smith is now a standout for the Minnesota Vikings. 

7. Trevor Laws, 2003-2007

Laws was one of the most productive and versatile defensive linemen in Notre Dame history. He posted 224 tackles, 10 sacks, 22.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and six blocked kicks. Laws ranks sixth in career tackles by a defensive lineman. His 112 tackles as a fifth-year senior were the second-most ever by a Fighting Irish defensive lineman. 

6. Jim Lynch, 1964-1966

The linebacker recorded 255 tackles, four interceptions and one fumble recovery during his career. Lynch was also named All-American, won a national championship and the Maxwell Award as the nation’s best college football player in 1966. 

5. Alan Page, 1964-1966

Page notched 134 tackles, recovered four fumbles and scored one touchdown as a defensive end for Notre Dame. The defenses that Page played on only allowed 188 points in 29 games — less than seven points per game. Page was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1993. 

4. Chris Zorich, 1988-1990

For starters, the Chicago native earned a national championship in 1988. Zorich was then named an All-American in 1989 and 1990. As a nose tackle, he won the Lombardi Trophy in 1990, his senior year. Zorich recorded 219 tackles in his career. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2008. He is just the third Notre Dame defensive lineman to be a member. 

3. Ross Browner, 1973, 1975-1977

Browner was named an All-American during his junior and senior seasons as a defensive end. He won the Lombardi Trophy in 1977 as the nation’s best lineman. Browner recorded 340 tackles as an Irish player- the most among any player at Notre Dame until Manti Te’o. 

2. Jaylon Smith, 2013-2015

Smith recorded 292 tackles, 5 sacks, one interception, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries as a linebacker with the Fighting Irish. During his junior season, Smith led the defense with 114 tackles and won the Butkus Award as one of the best linebackers in college football. 

1. Manti Te’o, 2009-2012

The 6-foot-2 inside linebacker from Hawaii was a Heismann Trophy finalist for his stellar senior season in 2012 when he led the Fighting Irish in tackles with 113, 55 of which were unassisted, and helped the team reach the national title game. Te’o was also named an All-American his junior year. He ended his career with 437 tackles, 55 sacks and seven interceptions.