ND-Navy Event in Baltimore Honors A Special Couple

When Notre Dame met Navy last weekend in Baltimore, a man who made his mark at both schools was properly remembered.

Edgar “Rip” Miller came out of the football hotbed of Canton, Ohio, in 1921, after captaining his McKinley High School football team to an undefeated season in 1920. He was planning on attending Grove City College in Pennsylvania until an uncle talked Rip into challenging himself by attending the University of Notre Dame.

Mrs. Es Miller
Mrs. Esther Miller, honored on her 102nd birthday at the combined Navy-ND luncheon at Camden Yarks in Baltimore Nov. 14, 2008.

Rip Miller had never been to South Bend, Ind. But once there, he made the most of his four years. By the time he was a senior in 1924, he had become the regular right tackle for the Fighting Irish, as one of the Seven Mules, blocking for the even more famous Four Horsemen.

Notre Dame rode the Horsemen and Mules to a perfect 10-0 record, a victory over Stanford — coached by Pop Warner and featuring the great Ernie Nevers — in the 1925 Rose Bowl and virtually unanimous acclimation at the 1924 national champions. Rip Miller also won the student-athlete award for Notre Dame’s graduating class of 1925.

In 1926, Miller started what became a nearly half-century association with the United States Naval Academy, as a football coach and administrator. As head coach in 1933, he guided the Middies to their first victory over Notre Dame.

On Friday, November 14, Miller was honored at a joint Notre Dame-Navy luncheon at Camden Yards in Baltimore. There, officials from the Notre Dame Club of Maryland and the Naval Academy Alumni Association unveiled the design for the new Rip Miller Trophy, which will be presented to the winner of the ND-Navy game starting in 2009.

Rip Miller was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1966, retired from the Naval Academy in 1974, and died at age 90 on October 1, 1991.

But there was another reason for celebrating November 14.

Believe it or not, it was the 102nd birthday of Rip Miller’s widow, Mrs. Esther Miller of Annapolis. Mrs. Miller is the last living member of the generaton which produced Notre Dame’s famous 1924 team. With a clear mind, strong voice and sharp memories, Mrs. Miller is able to give voice to the time when Rip Miller starred for Notre Dame, and coached at the Naval Academy.

Mrs. Miller was honored at both the luncheon, and a dinner hosted by the Naval Academy on Friday evening. In a highlight of the luncheon, the entire crowd of 300-plus rose to its feet for a stirring rendition of “Happy Birthday” while a cake was brought to her.

Mrs. Miller was 16-year-old Esther Templin of Elkhart, Indiana, when Rip Miller, then a junior at Notre Dame, joined a teammate in a double date with Esther and her older sister Phyllis. Rip and Esther remained close, even as she went off to college in Boston, and they married and made it to Annapolis.

Phyllis Templn became Mrs. Noble Kizer when she married Miller’s linemate, the left guard on the ’24 Irish. The result is several Templins and Kizers in Indiana who are related to two of the Seven Mules.

Rip Miller and Noble Kizer, along with all nine of their fellow regulars on the 1924 ND champions, went directly from playing to coaching college football. Kizer guided Purdue for several years and compiled a sterling record. Both men are honored at the schools they coached with annual awards in their names.

The entire story of the 1924 Notre Dame team and its amazing season is told in Loyal Sons: The Story of The Four Horsemen and Notre Dame Football’s 1924 Champions, released Sept. 5 by Great Day Press to an enthusiastic reception at the Notre Dame Bookstore. Since then, readers across the nation have enjoyed the story of Notre Dame’s first national championship team.