April 11, 2011
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Joe Heap, a three-year starter as a football halfback for the University of Notre Dame from 1952-54 and one of the most prolific pass receivers ever among Irish running backs, died April 6 in New Orleans, La. He was 79.
The only three-time Academic All-American in Notre Dame football history, Heap ranks as the only halfback in school history to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards in a career. In addition to his school record of 1,137 receiving yards by a halfback, Heap's 71 career catches rank fifth all-time among Notre Dame halfbacks. He led the Irish in receptions in three straight seasons - 1952, '53 and `54.
Heap, along with quarterback Ralph Guglielmi, Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Lattner and fullback Neil Worden, helped the Irish to a 9-0-1 record and share of the 1953 national title.
Heap's explosiveness as a 5-11, 180-pound left halfback was evident throughout his career. As a senior in 1954, Heap raced 89 yards for a touchdown against SMU, a play that ranks as the third-longest run in school history. He also recorded 92- (vs. Pittsburgh in 1952) and 94-yard (vs. USC in 1953) punt returns for touchdowns. Those two returns rank as the fourth- and fifth-longest in school history. Heap helped the Irish to a 9-1 mark in '54 while leading the team in scoring (48 points), kick returns and receiving (and finishing second in rushing with 594 yards).
Heap, a Sugar Bowl/Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Famer, was a first-round draft selection (eighth overall) of the New York Giants in 1955, but he played professionally only one season before serving in the Air Force, reaching the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.