Notre Dame comes to Tokyo

Posted by BrianBoru at 7/24/2009 11:10 AM EDT

The Notre Dame Legends football team is set to square off against the Japanese Senior National Team tomorrow night in Tokyo, Japan.

In what is being dubbed the Notre Dame Japan Bowl, former Notre Dame football players will have the opportunity to suit up one final time.

As I glanced over the roster, the only luminary among this outfit would appear to be former quarterback great Tony Rice, who guided the Fighting Irish to the National Title in 1988.

Incidentally, I had the opportunity to meet Rice before the Syracuse debacle this past November. And though I have never been one to collect autographs, it was pretty cool to meet the Notre Dame player I most admired as a kid.

Many of the players were born during the 1980s, with a few more born during the '70s.

And then there's Kris Haines. At 52 years old — he celebrated his 52nd Birthday on Thursday — he is by far the oldest player to participate in the game.

Haines, you may remember, was a favorite target of the legendary Joe Montana, playing wide receiver for Notre Dame during the late seventies.

Haines, of course, was most famous for catching Montana's touchdown toss as time expired, capping Montana and Notre Dame's amazing comeback victory over Houston (35-34) in the 1979 Cotton Bowl.

Another player of interest, though certainly of lesser note, is Tim O'Neill.

Nicknamed "Tiny Tim", O'Neill stands just 5-foot-5 and weighs a buck 60 and change.
Although, like every other athlete it seems, O'Neill's measurables are inflated just a tad for the official roster.

O'Neill was often compared to famous past walk-on Daniel "Rudy" Reuttiger for his hard-nosed style of play and similar diminutive stature. But, unlike Ruettiger, O'Neill was a regular contributor for the Irish, providing a steady force as the special teams gunner.

As a result of his hard work, and as a token of appreciation for his positive attitude, O'Neill was given the opportunity to carry the football two times during his senior season in 2002.

Another name certainly familiar to Notre Dame fans is Tim Brown. The former Heisman Trophy winner and soon-to-be NFL Hall of Famer will not be participating as a player for the Irish — but instead he will join his former head coach Lou Holtz.

Holtz, who led Notre Dame to its last National Title back in 1988, is the perfect man to helm this barnstorming event into the Far East.

Nowhere will you find a more fervent supporter of the Notre Dame Football program.

Well, maybe Regis Philbin...

Holtz, the last great head coach at Notre Dame — though he should have delivered another National Title or two — is the type of ambassador you love to see represent Notre Dame as they introduce the Japanese fans to the international brand appeal that is Notre Dame Football.

One name surprising in its omission is former Irish running back Autry Denson. Denson, Notre Dame's all-time leading rusher, was linked to play in this game earlier this year. I've not been able to find out why he's not listed on the updated roster. Oh well, it's a shame. Denson was a true warrior, always the reliable back, perfect for Lou Holtz's offense.

What is the tangible offshoot of this exhibition contest?

I'm not sure. Perhaps Notre Dame can gain a few more subway alumni in Japan.
Or maybe, depending on how competitively the underdog Japanese squad plays, discussion to add more international football contests will begin to pick up.

Perhaps it's little more than just one last chance to be able to don the famous blue and gold uniform.

At any rate, this should provide Notre Dame fans an appetizer for the much anticipated 2009 season. A season that has a mixture of both hope and concern.

Game Note: You can watch the Notre Dame Japan Bowl if you get a channel called CBS College Sports.

The game will not be aired live — in fact, it will not air until August 10th at 9 pm.

And, finally, I've linked both the ND game roster and Lou Holtz's commentary about the game.

Roster for the game: http://www.ndjapanbowl.com/roster/

Lou Holtz, ever the ND pitchman: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJDv3585o2o

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