Disce Quasi Semper Victurus
Vive Quasi Cras Moriturus"
Starting in the late 1870's, this rather intimidating phrase was the Scholastic Magazine credo. Ironically, the Scholastic proved to be the vehicle which has allowed the daily experiences of Notre Dame students during the past 150 years to truly "live forever". Scholastics are a virtual gold mine of Notre Dame history, and more importantly, of insight into the daily lives of its students. These first hand reports of campus life, written by student reporters, give a candid and personal view of important (and trivial) events on the Notre Dame campus. Joe Madonia, an '82 alum and partner in the Chicago law firm of Wildman, Harrold, Allen & Dixon, will edit a monthly column of excerpts from his rare and wonderful collection of original Scholastic Magazines spanning the period from 1869 - 1931.
Well, we've all heard of "The Fifth Beatle," but in this month's edition of Semper Victurus, Joe tells us the story of the Paul Castner...
If Grantland Rice had his brainstorm a couple of years earlier, the Four Horsemen, could easily have been named Crowley, Miller Stuhldreher and...Castner. Frequently called the "Fifth Horseman", Paul Castner stands out as one of the best backs in Notre Dame history - some believe even better than the other "Horsemen". Unfortunately, an injury sidelined Castner in 1922, paving the way for the more familiar legend to unfold. At the time, however, Castner was the star of the team. The following excerpt from the November 4, 1922 Homecoming edition of the Scholastic provides an account of the first ND - Georgia Tech game from earlier in the year, and illustrates Castner's dominance:
"While the 1500 cheering youths, et cetera, watching the game on the gridgraph, nearly shook the gym to its foundations, the fighting men of Notre Dame went marching through Georgia Tech at Atlanta, dazzling 20,000 Southerners with their brilliant attack and a solid defense. For the first time in the history of football a northern invader has beaten the Yellow Jackets in their own stronghold...No one Irishman stood alone in the spotlight, though Paul Castner was the biggest man of the day. He was used more than any other member of the backfield, gained constantly through the line, out punted his opponents, and not only hurled passes, but also caught them. Talk about triple threat players is a bit overdone, but surely not when applied to Castner. Don Miller worked like an accurate clock in hitting the line and skirting the ends, and picked passes out of the air in marvellous fashion. Jimmie Crowley made good gains at end and sometimes also through the line, besides tossing passes far and accurately. Stuhldreher was a galloping general [a Scholastic premonition?!], and made some elusive runs also."
Later in the year, the Scholastic looked back at the 1922 Nebraska game and the earlier injury to Castner as perhaps the first great moment in the careers of the Four Horsemen:
"Nebraska, in the opinion of Birch of Earlham, veteran conference referee, was one of the greatest teams he ever looked upon...and then came the Fighting Irish for Thanksgiving day. A fifteen hour train ride; a team outweighed twenty pounds to the man; Castner the great, Notre dame's greatest star...out of the lineup. On hostile ground. In the first half Nebraska gained 171 yards...and Notre Dame got but forty three..In the third period Notre dame opened up its passing attack and had the Cornhuskers dizzy. ..Then in the final period, after...getting to the Nebraska 3-yard line, a short pass over the line was attempted and Weller, greatest tackle in the West, smashed through and dumped Stuhldreher, who was about to heave the ball, and Nebraska was saved from defeat. It was a break and a sweet one, but the Fighting Irish haven't a kick in the world. That team travels further than trains can take it".
That game was the first of only two losses which the Four Horsemen would suffer during their entire Notre Dame careers. Looking back, The Scholastic reported that Rockne gave much credit to Castner, but The Scholastic also sensed the beginning of something special with the rest of his young backfield: The Scholastic quoted Rockne as saying: "It was a bad break to lose Paul Castner at this stage. His speed is a wonderful asset late in the season when most of the teams are inclined to go a bit stale. However, we have worried along despite any number of reverses and the boys have overcome every obstacle that has presented itself." The Scholastic reporter continued, however, that "There was a snap to Notre Dame's play that was most pleasing. The backs ran with the ball as if they really enjoyed the game. Usually they ran behind a perfect screen of interference, which made the task look all the more pleasant. When tackled, they often, by a bit of footwork, managed to work free; often they would sidestep and cause the opposing players to miss them entirely."
As they say, the rest is history...but never should history omit the exploits of the "Fifth Horseman", the great Paul Castner.