The Notre Dame program has three representatives on the Outland's esteemed list of winners, though none since defensive end Ross Browner took home the award in 1976.
Sophomore linebacker Manti Te'o earned his second pre-season nomination yesterday, landing on the Bronko Nagurski watch list – presented to the nation's top defensive player.
Te'o is one of 74 defenders named to the summer list which will be pared to five finalists on November 18. A defensive player of the week is chosen throughout the season by the award's presenter, the Charlotte Touchdown Club, a process which allows players not named to the pre-season list to be add names for the award's post-season consideration.
Former Irish cornerback Shane Walton represents the program's lone finalist for the Nagurski award. Walton finished third in the 2002 balloting behind Georgia defensive end David Pollack and Arizona State pass rusher Terrell Suggs.
The Bronko Nagurski presentation is ensured of an Irish flavor this season as 1969 All-America defensive lineman Mike McCoy is set to receive the club's "Legends Award" which honors the best of the best defensive football players from the past 40 years.
Previous winners of the "Legends Award" include players such as Miami's Ted Hendricks, Michigan State's Bubba Smith, and all-time Notre Dame great, Alan Page.
Te'o, along with Notre Dame tight end Kyle Rudolph and defensive end Ethan Johnson, were previously named to the Rotary Lombardi Award list which is limited to down linemen, end-to-end, either on offense or defense, who set up no farther than 10 yards to the left or right of the ball, or linebackers who set up no farther than five yards deep from the line of scrimmage.
Four Irish players appear on the Lombardi trophy: 1971 defensive end Walt Patulski, 1977 defensive end Ross Browner, 1990 nose tackle Chris Zorich, and 1993 offensive tackle Aaron Taylor.
Notre Dame players that could appear on watch lists later this summer include senior running back Armando Allen (Doak Walker Award); tight end Kyle Rudolph (John Mackey Award); wide receiver Michael Floyd (Biletnikoff Trophy) and possibly Te'o again (Butkus Trophy).
Former Irish wide receiver Golden Tate won the 2009 Biletnikoff Trophy as the nation's top wide receiver.
No Irish player has taken home the Mackey, Butkus, or Doak Walker Award. Recent finalists for each include Anthony Fasano and John Carlson (Mackey); Michael Stonebreaker and Courtney Watson (Butkus) and Reggie Brooks (Doak Walker).