a GREAT guy
There may be something here you can find a question or two from. Generally speaking, the research came from Scholastic Football Reviews and "What it Means to be Fighting Irish". (p.s. It was written several years ago but I think he still has the single season interception record, although I'm not sure.)
Mike Townsend was 6'3" 183-pound cornerback and safety from Hamilton, Ohio. His older brother Willie was already at Notre Dame, playing split-end, and it looked like Mike was going to follow. But after making a visit to Purdue, he started to lean towards West Lafayette. His mother told him, "I do not want to have to change sides from one field to the other during Notre Dame/Purdue games!" Mike went to Notre Dame, and the team called him "Little T." Explaining that "music is my life," Mike enjoyed listening to music to help him switch emotional gears. Bobby Womack and Roberta Flack helped mellow him. But he listened to the classic rock tunes from Rare Earth to get ready for games.
Mike was a reserve safety his sophomore year, making 5 tackles, but didn't get enough playing time to earn a Monogram. At this point, after two years, he was having self-doubts. But he was moved to left cornerback the following year and was starting. He set a new team record with 10 interceptions for the season, earning him the title "Master Thief" from teammates. He also made 34 tackles and broke up 4 passes. As a defensive threat, Mike had great size and speed combined with an impressive vertical leap.
He was elected a tri-captain representing the defense his senior year (with Dave Casper and Frank Pomarico as the other two team captains). Older brother Willie, who had a tremendous 1972 season, was still on the team as a 5th year senior. Mike was moved to free safety where he played next to strong safety Luther Bradley. This was 1973. It was another magical season for the Irish as they outscored their first five opponents 168-20. Then it was time to host rival USC. The Trojans had a tough offense with Lynn Swann at split end and Pat Hayden at quarterback for an aerial attack to compliment Anthony Davis (who scored 6 touchdowns against the Irish the previous year and ran for 368 yards) on the ground. The atmosphere at Notre Dame during game week was electric with anticipation. Match-ups like this were what great college football was all about.
At the pep rally, held outside on Friday night, Coach Parseghian addressed the crowd. "Tomorrow we take on the Trojans, a team that has not been defeated in 23 games. Let's not lose sight of the fact that WE'RE undefeated, too! And we have a great defense! And we have a great offense! Tomorrow the deeds will be done on the playing field...and I want to be able to count on the Notre Dame spirit tomorrow afternoon! But when Willie Townsend addressed the crowd, he may have elicited the most thunderous response. "The time is now," he said. "God made Notre Dame number one!"
The Notre Dame spirit was indeed in full force the next day. At one point in the game, Anthony Davis was back in the North endzone to field a kick-off. The students were ominously chanting, "Revenge! Revenge! Revenge!" Southern Cal was good this day, but Notre Dame was better. The team effort by the Irish secured the 23-14 victory. The defense made big stops and the offense made big plays. Notre Dame moved up in the AP poll from 8th to 5th and they were on their way.
Two weeks later the Irish traveled to face Pittsburgh and running threat Tony Dorsett, a freshman at the time. The Panthers were ranked 20th and Dorsett lived up to his increasing hype. The Irish defense was ready. At one point, Dorsett broke away for a long gain, but Mike Townsend tackled him and prevented a touchdown. Townsend also batted away two passes in the endzone, earning post-game praise from Coach Parseghian.
"Mike was spectacular on defense again. He made four crucial tackles that saved possible scores, particularly the one on Tony Dorsett's long run. Mike simply caught up with him."
After defeating top-ranked Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, the 10-0 Notre Dame Fighting Irish were named national champions for the 9th time in school history. Mike was a unanimous first team All-American selection for the 1973 season. Both he and Willie also played basketball for the Irish. He was drafted in the 4th round (86th overall) by the Minnesota Vikings. But he opted to play for the Florida Sharks in the doomed World Football League.
why did he opt to play with the Florida Sharks in the WFL?
I was in my car near the stadium with a date I was trying to impress.
My car got stuck in the deep snow and I looked like an idiot trying to get it out. Along comes Mike and a few friends who quickly pushed me out, restoring what little of my dignity remained.
He and his friends took off and, in the confusion, I never properly thanked him for this kindness.
Championship and his contact with, updates about members of the '73 team.
Like many others, he transferred out after freshman year.
My recollection (admittedly hazy) is that Digger Phelps scoured campus to find basketball bodies and ultimately found Michael Townsend. If I'm not mixing this story up, I'd love to know about a football player being 'discovered' by Digger. Different times, they were.
Shumate missed season w/ illness, and, except for him, Dee left the cupboard fairly bare. Both Townsend brothers ended up playing BB, although I can't recall for how long.
and his brother Willie to play basketball! CLASSIC!!
Dad wrote a letter to Digger after that game offering him support and encouragement. He later received a hand-written letter back from Digger that dad still has today. I remember a game against UCLA where Gary "the Goose" Novak dribbled back and forth across the 10 second line by he side court with ND down by 20+ points. That game was on TVS (not TBS) and I remember the white letters TVS across the screen at times. We still have many of the old media guides from Diggers early years. Willie & Mike Townsend...that brings back memories. We used to watch them play at the Fort Wayne(IN) Coliseum against IU once a year in the late 60s/early 70s. Actually got into the locker after game Schumate & Dantley played.
It was not as close as the final score indicated.
year's Fordham-Army game at MSG. Knight took offense to how Digger played to crowd as Fordham came back to pull game out, and he got his revenge following season after both of them had relocated to IN. I heard the story early 90's from the mgr. of that Fordham team, who did some scouting for RMK.
Going from 6-20 to 26-3 2 years later is still astounding.