Discover the best Notre Dame tickets that are available for key games at Notre Dame Stadium and beyond. We...
- Written by Ed Staton
- Published: 07 Apr 2023
Notre Dame, a storied college football program, has not only produced some of the sport's greatest players but has also been the breeding ground for the NFL MVP award. The Irish also impacted the American Football League Most Valuable Player award as well. With a combined six awards won by five former Fighting Irish players, including NFL legends like Joe Montana and Paul Hornung, it's no wonder why Notre Dame's football program is revered across the country. What's even more impressive is that the Fighting Irish hold the distinction of having produced more NFL MVPs than any other college. This is a testament to the skill and talent that Notre Dame players bring to the professional level. It's no wonder NFL teams keep a close eye on this powerhouse program come draft day.
Fighting Irish NFL-AFL MVP Lineup
- 1961 - Paul Hornung - Green Bay Packers
- 1967 (AFL) - Daryl LaMonica - Oakland Raiders
- 1971 - Alan Page - Minnesota Vikings
- 1983 - Joe Theismann - Washington Redskins
- 1989 - Joe Montana - Notre Dame
- 1990 - Joe Montana Notre Dame
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Notre Dame MVP Highlights
Wearing Two Uniforms, Hornung Scored Big In 1967
The first player from Notre Dame to win an MVP award was Paul Hornung. In 1961, he won the NFL MVP award as a halfback and kicker for the Green Bay Packers. Hornung led the league in scoring that year, helping propel them to an NFL Championship.
Hornung was an NFL star and Heisman Trophy winner who played for the Green Bay Packers as both a running back and a kicker. In 1961, he had led all scorers with 176 points scored. However, after just 12 games into that season, he left to join the United States Army Reserve's 814th Aviation Company as part of Operation Vittles (also known as The Berlin Airlift).
The aim of this operation was to deliver supplies such necessities as medical aid and food rations to residents living behind the iron curtain due to Soviet Union's blockade which prevented passage through East Germany. Naturally, this heroic act required Hornung’s utmost dedication which meant his absence from the NFL field for four months during the Spring-Fall period when training took place as well as missing at least one game – a November 26th matchup against Philadelphia Eagles – where Packers won 14-9 without their star player present on the field.
The Mad Bomber "Raided" Opponents
Daryle Lamonica was another player who enjoyed success early on in his career when he won an AFL MVP award in 1967 while playing for Oakland Raiders. That season, Lamonica threw for 3,228 yards with 30 touchdowns and 20 interceptions while rushing for four touchdowns. His team went 13-1 in regular season before winning the AFL championship that year.
Prior to LaMonica's stellar 1967 campaign, the player known as the Mad Bomber had played his first four seasons of professional football with the Buffalo Bills. In a career sparking move, LaMonica was traded to Oakland prior to the 1967 season.
Page Made the NFL Get Defensive
Alan Page's remarkable defensive ability and leadership earned him the 1971 NFL MVP Award, making him the first defensive player to receive the prestigious honor. His contributions were essential in anchoring the Vikings defense, known as the Purple People Eaters, which played an instrumental role in their 11-3 winning record. The team's defense was so formidable that they managed to shut out three opponents throughout the season. Even over thirty years later, the 1971 Vikings defense is still highly regarded, with ESPN ranking them in 2007, as the fourth-best in NFL history. Page's impact on the football field is undeniable and his skillset left a permanent mark on the sport.
Theismann Lit Up the Scoreboard
In 1983, Joe Theismann was at the top of his game as he proudly accepted the NFL MVP Award. Leading the Washington Redskins to an impressive 13-1 regular season record and an NFC championship, Theismann proved himself as one of the most skilled quarterbacks of his time. Despite their incredible season, the Skins fell to the Raiders in Super Bowl XVIII. But, Theismann's leadership and talent led Washington to score a remarkable 541 points that year- the highest in the entire league.
San Francisco Was Big on Montana
When it comes to legendary quarterbacks, Joe Montana's name is always at the top of the list. Not only did he win four Super Bowls, but he also took home two consecutive NFL MVP Awards in 1989 and 1990. It was in the former year that Montana truly cemented his status as one of the greatest to ever play the game. His remarkable passer rating of 112.4, a completion percentage of 70.2%, and a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 26/8 set new standards for excellence.
And when the playoffs arrived, Montana only elevated his game further, leading the San Francisco 49ers to another Super Bowl victory. Even the following year, Montana showed no signs of slowing down. In a game against the Atlanta Falcons, he threw for a career-best 476 yards and six touchdowns, proving that he was still at the very top of his game. Montana's MVP awards were much-deserved recognition for a football player who truly exemplified greatness.