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The Four Horsemen Of Notre Dame
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This famous image is from a 1999 football game ticket. It was played between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and the University of Oklahoma Sooners. The Four Horsemen of Notre Dame comprised a winning group of American football players at the University of Notre Dame under coach Knute Rockne. They were the backfield of Notre Dame's 1924 football team. The players that made up this group were Harry Stuhldreher, Don Miller, Jim Crowley, and Elmer Layden.
In 1924, a dramatic nickname coined by a poetic sportswriter, Grantland Rice, and the quick-thinking actions of a clever student publicity aide transformed the Notre Dame backfield of Stuhldreher, Crowley, Miller and Layden into the most fabled quartet in college football history, the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame.
Quarterback Harry Stuhldreher, left halfback Jim Crowley, right halfback Don Miller, and fullback Elmer Layden had run rampant through Irish opponents' defenses since coach Knute Rockne devised the lineup in 1922 during their sophomore season. During the entire three-year tenure of the Four Horsemen, Notre Dame lost only two games; one each in 1922 and 1923, both to Nebraska in Lincoln before packed houses.
The foursome needed some help from Grantland Rice, a sportswriter for the former New York Herald Tribune, to achieve football immortality. After Notre Dame's 13�7 upset victory over a strong Army team, on October 18, 1924, Rice penned "the most famous football lead of all-time":
Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore their names are Death, Destruction, Pestilence, and Famine. But those are aliases. Their real names are: Stuhldreher, Crowley, Miller and Layden. They formed the crest of the South Bend cyclone before which another fighting Army team was swept over the precipice at the Polo Grounds this afternoon as 55,000 spectators peered down upon the bewildering panorama spread out upon the green plain below.
George Strickler, then Rockne's student publicity aide and later sports editor of the Chicago Tribune, made sure the name stuck. He had pitched the idea out loud at the halftime of the Army game in the press box as a tie in to the 1921 Rudolph Valentino movie The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. After the team arrived back in South Bend, he posed the four players, dressed in their uniforms, on the backs of four horses from a livery stable in town. The wire services picked up the now-famous photo, and the legendary status of the Four Horsemen was assured.
"At the time, I didn't realize the impact it would have," Crowley said later. "But the thing just mushroomed. After the splurge in the press, the sports fans of the nation got interested in us along with other sportswriters. Our record helped, too. If we'd lost a couple. I don't think we would have been remembered."
After that win over Army, Notre Dame's third straight victory of the young season, the Irish were rarely threatened the rest of the year. A 27�10 win over Stanford in the 1925 Rose Bowl gave Rockne and Notre Dame the national championship and a perfect 10�0 record.
As it usually is with legends, the Four Horsemen earned their spot in gridiron history. Although none of the four stood taller than six feet and none of the four weighed more than 162 pounds, the Four Horsemen might comprise the greatest backfield ever. As a unit, Stuhldreher, Crowley, Miller and Layden played 30 games and only lost to one team, Nebraska, twice. They played at a time when there were no separate offensive and defensive teams. All players had to play both sides. Once a player left the field, he could not come back into the game.
November 30th, 2012
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