Blue and Gold Illustrated

March 2020

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 78 of 83 MARCH 2020 79 IRISH IN THE PROS BY ANDREW MENTOCK I n January, the Associated Press re- leased its NFL All-Pro first team, and three out of the five offensive line slots were filled by former Notre Dame players: Baltimore Ravens left tackle Ronnie Stanley (2012-15), In- dianapolis Colts left guard Quenton Nelson (2014-17) and Dallas Cowboys right guard Zack Martin (2009-13). That tied the Fighting Irish with LSU for the most players on the first team from one school, while Wiscon- sin, Ohio State, UCLA and Alabama each had two. It marked the sixth time in his six NFL seasons Martin has been named an All-Pro, and the fourth he earned a spot on the first team. For as impressive as that is, Nelson put himself in rare company by mak- ing the first team in each of his first two seasons. In the last 30 years, only former Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders (1989-90) and former Chicago Bears kick return specialist Devin Hester (2006-07) had also ac- complished that feat. Meanwhile, this is Stanley's first time earning All-Pro honors. He did so by becoming the best pass-block- ing tackle in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus (PFF). He was one of five Ravens to be named first-team All-Pro. All three offensive linemen played under former Notre Dame offensive line coach Harry Hiestand, who was recently let go by the Chicago Bears. He recruited and developed Nel- son and Stanley during the entirety of their Fighting Irish careers, and coached Martin during his last two seasons in South Bend. It's worth noting that current Irish offensive line coach Jeff Quinn in- structed NFL All-Pro first-team cen- ter Jason Kelce of the Philadelphia Eagles when Quinn was the offensive line coach and offensive coordinator at Cincinnati under Brian Kelly. Quinn and Kelly also helped de- velop former three-time All-Pro sec- ond-team offensive tackle Joe Staley at Central Michigan. Stanley, Nelson and Martin were also on the 2019 PFF NFL All-Pro Team, but Martin was listed as the second-team right guard behind Brandon Brooks of the Eagles. For- mer Notre Dame safety and current Minnesota Viking Harrison Smith also earned second-team recognition on PFF's All-Pro squad. HOW FORMER IRISH PLAYERS IMPACTED SUPER BOWL LIV Heading into the final quarter of Super Bowl LIV, it looked as if two former Notre Dame players were go- ing to be crowned champions of the NFL. Instead, right tackle Mike Mc- Glinchey and defensive tackle Shel- don Day of the San Francisco 49ers were on the wrong side of a double- digit comeback by the Kansas City Chiefs, ultimately losing 31-20. In the locker room after the game, Day, McGlinchey and the rest of the 49ers were down. "Some of my best friends are in this locker room," McGlinchey said. "This is one of the hardest moments — it's probably going to be one of the hardest moments in all of our careers. But doing what we did to- gether, like I said, I'm proud of this team. I'm proud to be a part of it." McGlinchey and Day were both starters in the Super Bowl, with Mc- Glinchey having a positive impact early on in the game, especially in the 49ers' run game. He helped spring rookie wide re- ceiver Deebo Samuel free for a few big runs, including one play where McGlinchey ran more than 10 yards up the field and blocked multiple defenders. There were other plays where Mc- Glinchey showed off his athleticism or ran around the defensive line to block a linebacker five yards up the field in the middle of the defense. Day made his third start this sea- son in the game. At one point, he was called out by the broadcasting crew for getting blown up by a double team, which allowed for a big Chiefs run through the middle of the 49ers' defense. He did make a big tackle later in the game, his lone stop. Two former Notre Dame football players also had a part in the Chiefs' success, even if they weren't on the field. Former Notre Dame tight end Alizé Mack (2015-18) is a member of Kansas City's practice squad and was likely doing his best to imitate George Kittle during preparation for the game. Kansas City Chiefs offensive line coach Andy Heck has been with the franchise since the 2013 season, which is when head coach Andy Reid took over. Heck was a tri-captain on the 1988 Notre Dame national champion- ship team as an offensive tackle, but played tight end the first three sea- sons during his Fighting Irish career. He then went on to be the 15th over- all pick, by the Seattle Seahawks, in the 1989 NFL Draft. His career spanned 12 seasons and he started more than 160 games. Heck went on to serve on the Uni- versity of Virginia coaching staff for three seasons, the first two as a grad- uate assistant, before finding a home in the NFL with the Jacksonville Jag- uars from 2004-12. ✦ Three Former Notre Dame Offensive Linemen Named First-Team All-Pro Pro Football Focus rated Baltimore Ravens left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who earned NFL All-Pro honors for the first time this year, as the best pass-blocking tackle in the NFL. PHOTO COURTESY BALTIMORE RAVENS IRISH IN THE XFL Five former Notre Dame players are in the new XFL, which began play Feb. 8-9: • Scott Daly, LS, New York Guardians • Tarean Folston, RB, Tampa Bay Vipers • Jarron Jones, OT, New York Guardians • Greer Martini, LB, Dallas Renegades • Nyles Morgan, LB, Seattle Dragons

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