July 31, 2011
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Seven former University of Notre Dame football players have agreed to NFL free agent contracts in the last week, including RB Armando Allen Jr. (Tampa Bay), RB Robert Hughes (Chicago), LB Kerry Neal (Indianapolis), LB Brian Smith (Cleveland), OG Chris Stewart (New York Jets), DB Darrin Walls (Atlanta) and NG Ian Williams (San Francisco).
Since 2007, 40 former Notre Dame football players have either been selected in the NFL Draft or signed with an NFL team as an undrafted free agent.
Allen (Opa Locka, Fla.), one of the most versatile running backs in Irish history, started 27 of his 41 career games. He rushed for 2,144 yards and eight touchdowns in his career. Allen was the 15th player in Notre Dame history to surpass 2,000 career yards on the ground. He holds the school record for running backs with 119 career receptions. Allen was the eighth player in Irish history to eclipse 4,000 all-purpose yards. He also ranks in the top 10 all-time in the following career categories: all-purpose yards (4,337; 5th), rushing attempts (469; 10th), receiving yards by running back (833; 4th), kickoff returns (54; 3rd), kickoff return yards (1,247; 4th) and total punt/kickoff return yards (1,247 KR, 113 PR; 5th).
Hughes (Chicago, Ill.), who received the Nick Pietrosante Award following the 2010 campaign, played in 47 games and started six during his Notre Dame career. He rushed for 1,392 yards and 15 touchdowns in his career. Hughes saved two of his better performances for his final two games in an Irish uniform. He ran for 69 yards on 11 carries against USC and 81 yards on 27 carries in the Hyundai Sun Bowl versus Miami (Fla.). Hughes rumbled for 36 yards alone on a seven play, 77-yard go-ahead touchdown drive against the Trojans, capping the march with a five-yard touchdown plunge to help the Irish snap USC's eight-game winning streak in the series.
Neal (Bunn, N.C.), the only player to appear in each of Notre Dame's 50 games over the last four years, started 33 career contests. He registered 112 tackles, including 49 solo stops over his career. Neal added one forced fumble, one interception, three fumble recoveries, six pass breakups, seven passes defended, seven sacks and 11 tackles for loss.
Smith (Overland Park, Kan.) started 29 of his 47 career games. He finished his career with 200 tackles, including 103 solo stops. Smith added three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, four interceptions, six sacks, 11 passes defended and 17 tackles for loss. He also scored a pair of defensive touchdowns - a 25-yard interception return against Matt Ryan of Boston College in 2007 and a 35-yard fumble return in a rout of rival Michigan in 2008.
Stewart (Spring, Texas) played in 41 career games and started 35, including each of the last 27 contests dating back to the 2008 campaign. Stewart, the only player in Notre Dame's storied football history to tackle football and law school simultaneously, was also one of 16 recipients named a 2010 National Scholar-Athlete by the National Football Foundation. A finalist for the Campbell Trophy, the academic version of the Heisman Trophy, Stewart was twice named First Team Academic All-District (2009, 2010).
Walls (Pittsburgh, Pa.) started 34 of his 45 career games. He registered 104 career tackles, including 75 solo stops. Walls added one fumble recovery, two forced fumbles, five interceptions, five and a half tackles for loss, 20 pass breakups and 25 passes defended. He also added a pair of interception returns for touchdowns - a 73-yarder against Penn State in 2007 and a 42-yarder against Army in 2010. Walls ranks tied for fifth in school history with two career interception returns for touchdown and tied for sixth with 20 career pass breakups.
Williams (Altamonte Springs, Fla.) played in 46 games and started 26 during his Irish career. He had appeared in every game of his career prior to a knee injury that forced him to miss the final four games in the 2010 season. Williams collected 162 tackles, including 68 solo stops. He added one career interception, four pass breakups, five passes defended and 13 tackles for loss. Williams earned the Lineman of the Year Award by the Moose Krause Chapter of the National Football Foundation following the 2010 campaign.