Notre Dame’s Four Horsemen

Is it too soon to start talking about football? Not when there are horses involved. HN does the research behind this famous quartet of college players.

It’s called “the most famous passage in sports journalism” and made four Notre Dame football players of 1924 into sports legends:

“Outlined against a blue, gray October sky the Four Horsemen rode again.

“In dramatic lore they are known as famine, pestilence, destruction and death. These are only aliases. Their real names are: Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden. They formed the crest of the South Bend cyclone before which another fighting Army team was swept over the precipice at the Polo Grounds this afternoon as 55,000 spectators peered down upon the bewildering panorama spread out upon the green plain below.”

The passage was written after Notre Dame’s victory over Army on October 18, 1924, by New York Herald-Tribune sportswriter Grantland Rice. When the team returned to South Bend, the team’s publicity aide George Strickler, inspired, organized the accompanying and equally famous photograph using horses hired from a town livery:



The “Four Horsemen,” as the quartet of quarterback Harry Stuhldreher, left halfback Jim Crowley, right halfback Don Miller and fullback Elmer Layden came to be known, lived up to the hype: in the thirty games that these four were united in their time at Notre Dame, they only lost twice (to Nebraska both times.) They’re widely regarded as one of the best backfield units in college football history.

In the spirit of tradition and tribute, four members of ESPN’s Sportscenter crew actually got on horses while on the road with the college football bus tour, recreating the scene and only slightly modifying the quote to fit the August setting:

“Outlined against a clear, blue August sky, the four horsemen ride again…”

A video posted by College GameDay (@collegegameday) on

It’s no secret that, no matter how much we equestrians might complain about the mainstream coverage football gets while our sports fall by the public wayside, horses and football actually make for quite a dramatic pairing. I’m talking, of course, about the plethora of Budweiser Clydesdale commercials that we all know and love thanks to the Superbowl, but there’s much more to it than that:

Football and horses, as it turns out, have a long and mutually-beneficial partnership. Was this 1924 image the first such example? We’re not sure, but the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame have certainly stood the test of time as one of the most distinctive and inspiring examples.

Go team! Go riding!

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