Notre Dame Football: 5 Young Players Who Could Become Legends

Matt MattareCorrespondent IIIMay 11, 2011

Notre Dame Football: 5 Young Players Who Could Become Legends

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    The annals of Notre Dame football are filled with legends whose feats are so great that they're identifiable with a single word.

    From Rockne and Gipp to Montana and Rocket, there are countless names etched into the consciousness of Irish fans that evoke memories of bygone glories. 

    The football program is in the midst of its longest national championship drought in its history and Brian Kelly is the coach tasked with resurrecting the Irish to the top of the college football world.

    If he's successful, then he will certainly take his place in Notre Dame Lore next to names like Leahy, Parseghian and Holtz. 

    It won't just be Kelly who will become a legend, though; there will be a handful of players that undoubtedly will win the hearts of fans in the process and join their head coach much like Rice, Stonebreaker, Zorich and Rocket accompanied Lou. 

    Today we examine five freshmen and sophomores on the current squad that have the potential to be the next wave of legends in Notre Dame football's illustrious history. 

Louis Nix, NT

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    Affectionately known as "Big Lou," Louis Nix is a colossus who already has a cult following.

    He's currently tipping the scales at 340 lbs., which makes him one of the largest players to ever suit up for the Irish.

    He was a fan favorite before he ever set foot on campus due in part to the fact he was the only player to commit to Notre Dame after Charlie Weis was fired and before Brian Kelly was named coach. 

    While players like Chris Martin were bailing on ND, Big Lou was climbing aboard. That's a big way to endear yourself to fans. 

    So the Irish Faithful loved him before they ever saw him play a down, but his status as a crowd favorite was cemented when the masses got their first peek of him in game action during the Blue-Gold Game.

    There, Big Lou played the dual role of "immovable object" and "irresistible force." The man is just massive and his sher size adds a completely new dimension to Notre Dame's 3-4 defensive front.

    If he turns out to be the difference-maker many think he will, then Big Lou is well on his way to becoming a legend. 

Everett Golson, QB

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    The early enrollee freshman is the first quarterback hand-picked by Brian Kelly to run his offense.

    He's got the arm and mobility to maximize the potential of the spread offense as well as the toughness and charisma to win over the Irish fanbase. 

    There's no guarantee that Golson will beat out redshirt freshman Andrew Hendrix, especially since Hendrix's performance in the spring game indicates he won't hand over the "quarterback of the future" title without a fight.

    But the hunch is ultimately Golson fits this offense too perfectly to not lock down the starting job. 

    When Notre Dame emerges from slumps, the quarterback who is leading the way cements his place in Irish Lore.

    If Golson is the man at that time he'll surely join names like Huarte, Rice and Quinn.

Aaron Lynch, DE

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    Another early enrollee makes the list.

    Lynch's roller-coaster recruitment ended with Notre Dame swooping in to steal him back from Florida State in the 11th hour.

    His dominating performance at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl had Irish fans giddy with anticipation over what he could bring to the defense.

    The show he put on during the Blue-Gold Game jacked up expectations to unseen heights. 

    This 17-year-old kid who should still be in high school was blowing by veteran offensive linemen four years his senior like they were standing still.

    His first step was so quick that often it looked as if he'd gotten a head start en route to lighting up the quarterback. Even though he didn't register a sack, he made an undeniable impact on nearly every single play. 

    Lynch is the elite pass-rushing threat the Irish have lacked since Justin Tuck graduated. Coaches are trying to temper expectations, but that's going to be difficult at this rate.

    If he comes out of the gate with guns blazing this fall like he did this spring, he may be the first person on this list to actually land the "legendary" status. 

Prince Shembo, OLB

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    Obviously to be remembered as great you need to play at an elite level. That's not enough sometimes, though.

    Great players like Ken MacAfee, Leon Hart and Tom Gatewood have slipped through the cracks over time due in large part to one reason: Their name just isn't particularly memorable. 

    Vagas Ferguson, Joe Montana, "The Golden Boy," Michael Stonebreaker, Chris Zorich and "The Rocket" are great names or nicknames that are easy to remember through the years. Prince Shembo fits right in there.

    As a true freshman, he registered 3.5 sacks in limited action and is poised to lock down a starting position as a sophomore.

    He's a pass-rushing fiend who would likely be receiving more hype had Mr. Lynch not enrolled and stolen the show. 

    Shembo has a long way to prove he's going to be very good, let alone great, but he's got a name that gives him a leg up on someone like Anthony McDonald in terms of being memorable. 

Bruce Heggie, DE

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    There's a very real chance that Bruce Heggie will never start a game for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

    He's the lowest-rated recruit to be extended a scholarship since the Ty Willingham Era and is currently playing a position that is stocked with 4- and 5-star talent.

    When he was given an offer last spring, the collective reaction from the entire Notre Dame fanbase was, "wait, what?"

    His only other offers were from FCS schools and as the Irish became crunched for scholarships, many questioned how on earth Brian Kelly could burn one on this no-name recruit.

    Well, Heggie has already made great strides during his time on campus, and while he's not on the verge of starting (or even playing), he doesn't appear to be a stiff either.

    If he can find a way to contribute down the road, it will serve as a major validation of Kelly's eye for talent.

    Heggie will consistently be trotted out as the prime example for why fans should trust Kelly's judgment on recruiting and he'll become a poor man's Rudy (albeit one that's on scholarship).

    Heggie's the most observed and scrutinized low-level recruit to set foot on campus at Notre Dame in recent memory.

    If he blossoms over the course of his five years then he'll be a name all Irish fans remember.