Since 1954, the NFL draft has featured at least one Notre Dame player each year. With the volume of Irish players drafted, failures are expected.
Here is a list of some Notre Dame players who couldn't duplicate their college success at the next level:
1) Walt Patulski
The first overall pick by the Buffalo Bills in the 1972 draft, Walt Patulski never lived up to expectations and lasted only five years in the NFL.
At Notre Dame, the defensive end won the Lombardi Award and finished ninth in Heisman voting in 1971. Unfortunately, for Patulski, his college success didn't translate to the NFL, and knee troubles hastened the end of his career.
2) Rick Mirer
The second player selected in the 1993 draft after the New England Patriots selected Drew Bledsoe, Rick Mirer had a promising rookie season. The young quarterback set rookie records for yards, attempts, and completions. For Mirer, his rookie season was as good as it would get. He found some success in his second year, but he struggled the rest of his career, bouncing between seven different teams before retiring.
3) Ken MacAfee
Selected seventh by the San Francisco 49ers in the 1978 draft, Ken MacAfee's NFL career lasted only two years. When Bill Walsh asked MacAfee to move to guard, the tight end declined and opted to leave football to attend dental school.
As a tight end, MacAfee enjoyed a successful college career. A first-team All-American for three seasons, MacAfee placed third in Heisman voting in 1977 en route to helping his team win the national championship.
4) Jim Seymour
In Jim Seymour's first college game, he caught 13 passes for 276 yards, a Notre Dame record that still stands today. When he graduated three years later, he was Notre Dame's career receiving leader with 138 catches for 2,113 yards and 16 touchdowns. The three-time All-American found things more difficult in the NFL.
Drafted in the first round of the 1969 draft, 10th overall, Seymour played only three years with the Chicago Bears.
5) Steve Niehaus
The first ever draft pick of the Seattle Seahawks, Steve Niehaus was the second pick in the 1976 draft. The defensive tackle was a first-team All-American twice in his college career, and he left Notre Dame with 290 career tackles. In his four-year professional career, Niehaus failed to duplicate his college success.
Though their professional careers ended prematurely, it's unfair to call these men failures. They worked on their craft for years, and they spent countless hours at practice and games. These players didn't succeed in the NFL, but they did make it there. That should count for something.
A fan of the San Francisco 49ers, I rooted for Joe Montana's alma mater. Making the trip to South Bend strengthened my bond to the Irish. No matter the outcome, I will always be a Notre Dame fan.
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- Walt Patulski
- Rick Mirer