ND’s Brotherhood

It’s been stated many times this season, in reference to the tight bond developed among the 12-0 Fighting Irish.  Manti Te’o will talk about the love he has for his brothers, and the support shown from his brothers during his painful time of personal loss.

Indeed, the sense of brotherhood shown on and off the field for Notre Dame this season is no less a factor in the team’s success than talent, player development or game strategy.

But there are brothers, and then there are brothers.

On this Notre Dame team, four sets of actual brothers share the experience of being No. 1 in the nation.

Starting left tackle and captain Zack Martin recently announced his intention to return for his final year of eligibility in 2013, in part to share another season with brother Nick. The Martins, from Bishop Chatard HS in Indianapolis, could be two-fifths of the starting offensive line next season.

“I sat down and talking to my parents, and thought about it,” Zack said about the decision.  The idea of playing another season with Nick “means everything to me.”

George Atkinson, Jr. with his two sons George III and Josh.

George Atkinson III and brother Josh are sophomores from Stockton, Calif., and part of a football family that includes father George Jr., a former all-pro defensive back for the Oakland Raiders.  George III has made his mark with the Irish as a speedy running back and kick returner; Josh is a reserve cornerback.  Both excel in track for Coach Joe Piane, who calls the brothers (and football teammate Bennett Jackson) a “throwback to the Rockne era, when the stars of the track team were traditionally football players.”

Chris and Will Salvi are walk-on defensive backs from Lake Forest, Ill., and Carmel Catholic HS. Chris, a transfer from Butler University in 2009, has become a star of the special teams, and earned a scholarship last winter.

Mike Golic, Jr.

And then there are the Golics – starting right guard Mike Jr. and reserve tight end Jake, both seniors. Themselves part of a Notre Dame football legacy, they are sons of Mike Golic Sr., defensive end for the Irish from 1981-84, known today as a national sports talk show host for ESPN.  Mike Sr. was one of three brothers who played for the Irish; Greg lettered as a tackle at the same time as Mike, and older brother Bob was a standout linebacker in the late 1970s.  Mike Jr. and Jake have been joined at ND by younger sister Sydney, a member of the Irish women’s swimming team. The current Golics are products of Northwest Catholic HS in West Hartford, Conn.

In addition, two members of the 2012 Irish are younger brothers of former ND standouts.  Reserve safety Dan McCarthy (Youngstown, Ohio/Cardinal Mooney HS) is the brother of former Irish safety and 2009 captain Kyle McCarthy.  And senior wide receive Nick Fitzpatrick’s brother D.J. was a double-duty punter and kicker for the Irish from 2002-05, totaling 203 points.  The Fitzpatricks are from Mishawaka’s Marian HS.

Jake Golic

Down through the decades, numerous sets of brothers have lined up for the Irish.

From 1987 through 1992, each Irish team had one of both of the Brooks brothers – running backs Reggie and Tony.  Reggie’s 1,343-yard season in 1992 merited numerous second-team All-American selections.

The Browners of Warren, Ohio – defensive end Ross, safety Jim and fullback Willard – made their mark in the 1970s, with all three contributing in 1976.  Ross was a near unanimous first-team All-American in 1976 and 1977, a key cog on the ’77 national champs.

Mike and Willie Townsend of Hamilton, Ohio, were standouts on opposites of the ball in the early 1970s.  In 1972, defensive back Mike led the nation with 10 interceptions and was named All-America, while Willie was ND’s leading receiver, with 25 catches for 369 yards and four touchdowns.

Later in the 1970s, Dave and Tim Huffman started on the offensive line next to each other, Dave at center and Tim and guard.

Of course, nobody can compare to the “first family” of Notre Dame football – the Millers from Defiance, Ohio.  Five brothers came from that humble hometown to play for the Irish…starting with Harry “Red” Miller in 1906, continuing through Don Miller, one of the Four Horsemen, in 1924.  In 1909, Red was among the stars of an Irish team that upset Michigan, 11-3, Notre Dame’s first win over the Wolverines after eight losses. He became just the second ND players to receive All-American honors.

Ross Browner

Ray Miller played left end, backing up one Knute Rockne, in 1911-12.  Walter Miller played fullback in the same backfield as George Gipp in 1916-17.  Gerry Miller came to ND with Don – the youngest of the five – in 1921 and was heralded as the next star, with blazing speed, but injuries kept him sidelined, while Don worked his way into the starting backfield with Harry Stuhldreher, Jim Crowley and Elmer Layden in 1922-24. Don gained All-American honors and lasting fame as one of the Four Horsemen, national champions in 1924.

All five Miller brothers earned their law degrees from Notre Dame and became lawyers in Cleveland. They were Democratic Party stalwarts, and Ray served as mayor of Cleveland. Don had a long career as a highly respected federal judge.  The next generation of Millers included Red’s son Creighton, an All-American running back in 1943.

Another Horsemen, Elmer Layden, had the distinction of coaching his younger brother Mike in 1933-35, the first three of seven seasons Elmer was ND’s head coach.

The captain and center of the ’24 Irish, the indestructible Adam Walsh, was the heart of the “Seven Mules” – and a role model for younger brother Charles “Chile” Walsh, who followed him to letter at end in 1925-27.

And another of the famed Seven Mules from ’24, end Chuck Collins, was followed by brother Eddie, also an end, in 1926-29.  Similarly, linemen John and Art McManmon, from Dracut, Mass., spanned Rockne’s three national titles, with John on the ’24 squad, and Art on the 1929 and 1930 undefeated champions.

Tradition. Excellence. Family. It’s all part of what makes Notre Dame what it is.