The Best Notre Dame Football Players of All Time

Over 4.5K Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of The Best Notre Dame Football Players of All Time
Voting Rules
Only vote on the players based on their career at Notre Dame

A list of the best Notre Dame football players of all time. Notre Dame University's Fightin' Irish are a college football institution. Some of college football's most storied teams and greatest players of all time have played for the Golden Domers. For years, Notre Dame has lured the best football players in the land to South Bend, Ind. to play football for the school. Notre Dame's alumni are some of the most famous people to graduate from the school. The program started in 1888 and almost immediately became a national powerhouse.Those early Fightin' Irish teams had some of the school's greatest players ever, including George Gipp. A legend in Notre Dame folklore, Gipp was the school's first first team All-American player. Despite not playing football until he got to Notre Dame, Gipp led the Irish in rushing and passing each of his last three seasons 1918, 1919 and 1920. He was also the subject of head coach Knute Rockne's greatest speech when he said "Win one for the Gipper."

Over the years, Notre Dame's best players have gone onto successful NFL careers. Paul Hornung and Alan Page are both in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and longtime Raiders receiver and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown is on the cusp of being inducted as well. Raghib "Rocket" Ismail had a long, successful career in the pros after an outstanding career at Notre Dame. So who are the best Notre Dame players in the pros today? Perhaps New York GIants defensive end Justin Tuck. Though he played on some solid teams at Notre Dame, Tuck won two Super Bowls in the NFL and is one of the best players to come from the school in recent years. Recently, Manti Te'o added himself to the list of the greatest players in Notre Dame history when he finished second in the Heisman Trophy balloting. 

This is the list of the best Notre Dame football players of all time. If you notice someone is missing, feel free to add him. Vote or rerank this list according to who you think is the greatest Notre Dame Fightin' Irish football player ever. 
Most divisive: Emil Sitko
Ranked by
  • Joe Montana
    2,160 votes
    • Birthplace: USA, New Eagle, Pennsylvania
    • Age: 67
    • Teams: San Francisco 49ers, Kansas City Chiefs

    Joe Montana's legacy as a Notre Dame quarterback is indisputable, with a knack for delivering in the clutch and his uncanny ability to read defenses. His leadership and cool demeanor under pressure led the Fighting Irish to a thrilling Cotton Bowl victory, and his exceptional skills translated seamlessly to the NFL. Often hailed as one of the greatest QBs in college football history, Montana's performances at Notre Dame continue to inspire future generations.

  • Tim Brown
    1,673 votes

    As a wide receiver and kick returner, Tim Brown left an indelible mark on Notre Dame football, dazzling fans with electrifying speed, agile footwork, and incredible field vision. A consummate playmaker who could shift the momentum of a game in an instant, Brown played a vital role in securing crucial victories for the Fighting Irish. Unquestionably one of the most dynamic athletes ever to don the blue and gold, his impact on the game endures both in South Bend and beyond.

  • Jerome Bettis
    Running back
    1,605 votes
    • Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan
    • Age: 51
    • Teams: Pittsburgh Steelers, St. Louis Rams

    Jerome Bettis, affectionately known as "The Bus," was a force to be reckoned with on the Notre Dame gridiron, a bruising running back whose combination of power and agility made him an absolute nightmare for opposing defenses. His relentless determination and tireless work ethic inspired teammates and intimidated opponents alike. Bettis' dynamic playing style and larger-than-life personality made him a beloved figure among Notre Dame faithful and cemented his place among college football's elite.

  • Quentin Nelson

    Quentin Nelson

    703 votes

    With a rare blend of size, strength, and technical proficiency, Quenton Nelson dominated the trenches as an offensive guard for Notre Dame, consistently opening up lanes for the rushing attack while offering outstanding protection for his quarterback. A true force on the offensive line, his intimidating presence and relentless work ethic set the tone for the entire unit. Nelson's extraordinary performances at Notre Dame helped pave the way for his successful transition to the NFL, where he continues to excel.

  • Alan Page
    Defensive tackle, Defensive end
    1,080 votes
    • Birthplace: Canton, Ohio, USA
    • Age: 78
    • Teams: Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings

    As a devastating force at defensive tackle for Notre Dame, Alan Page struck fear into the hearts of his opponents, combining exceptional athleticism with an unparalleled understanding of the game. His relentless pursuit of opposing quarterbacks and disruptive presence in the backfield helped anchor a dominant Fighting Irish defense. A transcendent talent on the field, Page's impact looms large over the storied history of Notre Dame football.

  • Jaylon Smith
    672 votes
    • Birthplace: Fort Wayne, IN
    • Age: 23
    • Teams: Notre Dame

    Jaylon Smith's dynamic athleticism and versatility as a linebacker made him a crucial component of the Notre Dame defense during his tenure in South Bend. His speed and instinctual play allowed him to cover vast areas of the field in both run defense and pass coverage. While the injury that ended his college career was a tragic setback, his heart and determination exemplified the spirit of a true Fighting Irish warrior.