Considered by his teammates to be a “coach on the field”, Tom Clements almost didn’t go to Notre Dame at all. A multisport star in high school in McKees Rock, Pennsylvania, Clements nearly went the North Carolina to play point guard for Dean Smith and the Tar Heels. But Notre Dame won out and Clements went on to a great career at ND.
Clements ran the Irish offense from 1972-1974 and the teams he led had prolific running games. Eric Penick, Wayne Bullock, Al Hunter and Jerome Heavens were just a few of the stand out runners that were at Clements’ disposal. The Irish over those three seasons averaged 312.3 yards per game on the ground. During that span Clements threw exactly 8 touchdown passes each season and totaled 3594 yards passing. He also contributed to the Irish ground game juggernaut with 1070 yards and 12 TDs of his own.
Most impressively Clements led the Irish to victories, lots of them. 29-5 as a starter, and he was viewed by his teammates as the consummate leader. According to 1973 team captain, Frank Pomarico, “Tom could drag a team to reach its dreams and goals. Being around him, you felt a calming confidence in his abilities to lead. He was persistent and consistent in his work habits, striving every day for perfection. “
Perhaps the most famous pass Clements ever threw came at the 2:08 mark of the 1973 Sugar Bowl against Alabama. The Irish were clinging to a 24-23 lead and Notre Dame was backed up at their own 3-yard line on 3rd and 8, Clements calmly dropped back to pass from his own end zone and found little used tight end Robin Weber free up field, near the sideline. The pass was on target and the Irish notched a 36-yard gain that allowed them to run out the clock and claim the 1973 national championship.
After graduation, Clements settled into a 13 years career in the Canadian Football League. He threw 252 touchdown passes, for over 39,000 and led teams to two Grey Cup championships. in 1994 he was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. Upon retirement he returned to Notre Dame and earned a law degree. and practiced law for five years.
Clements practiced law for five years but in 1992 he embarked on a coaching career. He started at Notre Dame as Lou Holtz’s quarterback coach for four seasons. He then moved to the NFL where he is still coaching today. His current position is quarterback’s coach for the Green Bay Packers.
Tom Clements, Notre Dame quarterback 1972-1974, another All-Time Irish Hero.