Sept. 23, 2015
Two-time University of Notre Dame All-America split end Thom Gatewood will be honored Saturday at halftime of the Notre Dame-Massachusetts football game at Notre Dame Stadium for his selection to the National Football Foundation’s College Football Hall of Fame Class of 2015.
Representing the NFF this weekend will be director of special projects Hillary Jeffries.
Gatewood also will be recognized Friday night at an on-campus reception including Notre Dame athletics administrators and other special guests.
An NCAA consensus All-America pick in 1970, Gatewood becomes the 45th former Notre Dame player—and the first since tight end Dave Casper in 2012—to join the College Football Hall of Fame. With 45 former players and six former coaches selected, Notre Dame boasts more honorees than any other school in the country. Gatewood is only the second true receiver from Notre Dame (Tim Brown is the other) to earn selection to the Hall of Fame.
Gatewood participated in the pregame coin toss in January prior to the College Football Playoff National Championship at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. He is part of the 2015 class that includes 15 players and two coaches. He will be inducted with the entire 2015 class Dec. 8, 2015, at the 58th NFF Annual Awards Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. His class of inductees will be honored at the Allstate Sugar Bowl in New Orleans on Jan. 1, 2016.
A 1971 Irish co-captain (the first black football captain at Notre Dame) for head coach Ara Parseghian, Gatewood led the Irish in receiving in three straight seasons—in 1969 with 47 catches for 743 yards and eight touchdowns, in 1970 with 77 for 1,123 and seven TDs and in 1971 with 33 for 417 and four TDs.
The Baltimore, Maryland, product set the Notre Dame record for most passes caught and most receiving yards in a season (with 77 for 1,123 yards in 1970), and he finished his Irish career as Notre Dame’s all-time leading pass-catcher with 157 for 2,283 yards. He also set the Irish standard for most catches per game in a season with 7.7 in 1970 (ranking second nationally in the final NCAA statistics that year) and most TDs by reception in a game (three against Purdue in 1970). His most productive individual game featured 12 receptions (one short of Jim Seymour’s single-game record at that time) for a career-best 192 yards and three TDs in that 1970 Purdue contest.
Gatewood’s single-season mark for receptions lasted until Jeff Samardzija tied it in 2005 and then broke it (with 78 catches) in 2006. His single-season yardage total lasted until Samardzija topped it with his 1,249 receiving yards in 2005. In 1970 Gatewood teamed with quarterback Joe Theismann to help the Irish average a Notre Dame-record 510.5 total offense yards per game (ranked second nationally) as well as a then-Notre Dame record 252.7 passing yards per game (that mark lasted until 2005). He played three varsity seasons, and Irish players who played four broke most of his career records.
Gatewood’s career record for receptions lasted until Samardzija eclipsed it with 179 in 2003-06. His single-season marks for receptions and receiving yards and his career number of receptions all rank fifth in Notre Dame’s all-time record book. His career average for receiving yards per game (76.1) ranks behind only figures posted by Michael Floyd (85.7) and Jim Seymour (81.3). Gatewood had 13 career 100-yard receiving days, finishing behind only Floyd (17) and Golden Tate (15)
As a junior in 1970, Gatewood’s consensus All-America season featured first-team mention on teams named by United Press International, the American Football Coaches Association, Walter Camp Foundation, Newspaper Enterprise Association, Look and Central Press. He was a second-team pick by The Sporting News. As a senior in 1971, he was a first-team pick by Time and a second-team selection by UPI. As a sophomore in 1969, he was a third-team pick by the Associated Press. He finished 12th in the 1970 Heisman Trophy voting (his teammate Theismann finished second).
As a three-year starter Gatewood helped his three Irish teams to a combined 26-5-1 record--8-2-1 in 1969 (final #5 Associated Press ranking), 10-1 in 1970 (#2 behind 11-0-1 Nebraska, including one week in the #1 slot) and 8-2 in 1971 (#13). He played on Irish teams that made Notre Dame’s first bowl appearances in 45 years when the Irish played top-rated and unbeaten Texas teams in the Cotton Bowl following both the 1969 and 1970 seasons.
Gatewood caught six passes for 112 yards in Notre Dame’s 21-17 loss to Texas in the 1970 Cotton Bowl, including a 54-yard TD reception that gave the Irish a temporary 10-0 lead. A year later in Notre Dame’s 24-11 win over the top-rated Longhorns, Gatewood hauled in a 26-yard TD pass from Theismann to put the Irish up 7-3 and also had a 17-yard grab to help Notre Dame end Texas’ 30-game winning streak.
Gatewood was a two-time first-team CoSIDA Academic All-American in 1970 and 1971 (and a second-team pick in 1969) and also earned postgraduate scholarships from the NCAA and the National Football Foundation following his senior season. He joins a prestigious group of 30 players who have been selected both to the NFF Hall of Fame and also as NFF Scholar-Athletes, and he has been a finalist for the Academic All-America Hall of Fame. Gatewood joins former Irish players Jim Lynch (1992 Hall of Fame inductee) and Dave Casper (2012) in that category, with Notre Dame the only institution that has produced three. (Nebraska, Ohio State and UCLA have two each.) He also was honored as a high school senior by the Baltimore NFF chapter as a National Football Foundation Scholar-Leader-Athlete.
Gatewood is one of a select group of less than two dozen Notre Dame student-athletes all-time who have earned the combination of All-America, Academic All-America and NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship honors.
After playing in the 1972 Hula Bowl, Gatewood was selected in the fifth round (107th overall pick) of the 1972 National Football League Draft by the New York Giants. He played in 17 combined games for the Giants in the 1972 and 1973 seasons.
In 1994 Gatewood was inducted into the State of Maryland Athletic Hall of Fame. A Parade prep All-America selection, he was coached at Baltimore City College High School by George Young, later the longtime general manager of the New York Giants.
Born March 7, 1950, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Gatewood received his Notre Dame degree in 1972 from the College of Arts and Letters, with a major in sociology, a minor in economics and a final 3.6 grade-point average. He made the Dean’s list in all eight semesters at the University.
Gatewood is an advisory board member for the child health initiative “Healthy Children, Healthy Futures,” launched by Strang Cancer Prevention Center and MetLife Foundation to reach into inner-city communities to help set groundwork for fitness and nutrition. He has volunteered for Minority Athletes Networking, Etc., a non-profit organization that annually serves approximately 5,000 inner-city youth through educational outreach and social activities.
He currently is owner and president of Blue Atlas Productions, a promotional products distributor in New Jersey. He’s also co-owner of Larkspur Lane, Ltd., a video television production company that has won 11 network Emmy Awards, two network news Emmys and four Peabody Awards. He won an Emmy for “ABC 2000” for Millennium celebration coverage around the world and a Peabody for coverage of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Gatewood previously held sales executive positions at Continental Can, Reader’s Digest, Mutual Broadcasting System, RKO Radio Network and Satellite Music Network, as well as media positions with ABC Sports (college football analyst) and ABC News (producer).
-- by John Heisler, senior associate athletics director