Joe Montana headlines Notre Dame Impact at Super Bowl

Joe Montana in the 49ers 38-16 victory over the Dolphins in Super Bowl XIX. (Photo: USA TODAY Sports)

Notre Dame has 45 former players who have won Super Bowl rings, after this Sunday there will be 46.

Recruited 2021 WR Ben Skowronek (rams) and DE Khalid Karim (Bengals) will both be dressed for the game this Sunday. One will win a ring, both will join a group of former Notre Dame players and coaches who have had a profound impact on the Super Bowl’s 55-year history.

Three times a Fighting Irish alum has been named Super Bowl MVP and they’re all the same guy. Joe Montanawhich has four Super Bowl rings, won the accolade in 1982, 1985 and 1990. Montana has never lost a Super Bowl and its legendary performances were well exemplified by what is now known in Super Bowl lore as the name “The Drive”.

In Super Bowl XXIV, with the 49ers trailing the Bengals 16-13 and 3:20 left in the game, Montana entered the huddle first and 10 on his own eight-yard line. In order to calm his team down, “Joe Cool” pointed to the bleachers and said, “Hey, isn’t that John Candy? The popular comedian reference apparently worked because the 49ers, 8-9 through Montana, took to the field and scored the game-winning runs on a 14-yard TD pass to John Taylor. Montana, in his only Super Bowl appearance in which he did not win the MVP title, but that day went 23-36 for 357 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Other ND quarterbacks have played against Super Bowl winners. Joe Theismann (1968-70) led Washington to a 1983 win over the Miami Dolphins. Theismann also led Washington to the Super Bowl the following season, but in a losing effort. Terry Hanratty (1966-68) took shots in place of an injured Terry Bradshaw in Pittsburgh’s 1976 win and Steve Beuerlein (1983-86) replaced Troy Aikman late in Dallas’ 1993 win over Buffalo.

Notre Dame quarterback from 1972 to 1974 and national champion in 1973, Tom Clement also won a Super Bowl ring, but not as a player. Clements, who had a long coaching career in the NFL, was quarterback coach Aaron Rodgers when Green Bay beat Pittsburgh in 2011.

A former Notre Dame assistant coach won the championship as head coach. In 1958, Hank Stram was an assistant on Terry Brennan’s team in South Bend. In 1970, Stram led the Kansas City Chiefs to a Super Bowl victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

And of course, the former head coach of Notre Dame Charlie Weis won four Super Bowl rings as coach of the Patriots, before being named head coach of Notre Dame in 2005.

Two Notre Dame alumni appeared in the first Super Bowl in 1967, a game Green Bay won 35-10. Paul Hornung (1954-56) who was in the twilight of his career won a ring but did not play due to injury. The special teams performance in Bill “Red” Mack’s first-ever Super Bowl was interesting. Mack, an explosive and tough running back, played at Notre Dame from 1957 to 1960 and was on the Packers’ special teams. Mack is credited with two tackles on the day and according to multiple sources, he made the first tackle in Super Bowl history.

The winners’ share of $25,000 the Packers got for winning the game at the time was more than double the $12,000 Mack had received for the entire season. (The winner’s share today, by the way, is $150,000).

Running back Ricky Watters (1987-90) scored the most Super Bowl touchdowns of any former Notre Dame player. Watters has three and they all came in a 49-26 rout of the Chargers by the 49ers in 1995. He scored on 51 and 8-yard pass receptions and a 9-yard rush.

Defensive end Ross Browner (1973-77), in a losing effort for the Bengals in 1990, set a Super Bowl record for most tackles by a defensive lineman with 10. One of those saves was was the dismissal of his former teammate, Joe Montana.

Rocky Bleier (1965-1967) lived up to Montana’s four Super Bowl victories. The former Notre Dame captain and 1966 national champion, had a tremendous career as a fullback for the Steelers teaming with Francois Harris and winning the Super Bowl rings in 1975, 76, 79 and 80.

Steve Sylvester (1972-74), played tackle for the Oakland Raiders and won three rings, 1977, 81 and 84. Without a doubt, they look great next to the national championship ring he won in South Bend in 1973.

Linebacker Nick Buoniconti (1959-61) was a mainstay of the Miami Dolphins great team in 1972, the only NFL team to go undefeated. Buoniconti notched the perfect season and a Super Bowl win with an interception in a 14-7 win over Washington.

Jerome Bettis (1990-92) finally won a ring in 2005 with the Steelers after a 13-year career. ‘The Bus’ emerged victorious as he announced his retirement from the podium while holding the Lombardi Trophy immediately after the match.

With four rings and three MVPs under his belt, Joe Montana is rightly considered one of the greatest players in Super Bowl history. “Joe Cool” and his heroism are far from the only contributions Notre Dame has made to the world’s most-watched game, however. In fact, in the Super Bowl’s 55-year history, many former Notre Dame players have been front and center on “Super Sunday.”

This year, two recruits,Ben Skowronek and Khalid Karim hopes to add to this record of Fighting Irish success.


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