There have been some great father-son combinations in NCAA football history: Archie Manning and his sons Payton and Eli, Clay Matthews and his sons Clay and Casey, Mark Ingram and his son Mark, Kellen Winslow and his son Kellen, Oliver Luck and Andrew; but none of these combinations both played on national championship teams.
Dr. Bob Burger and his son, Joe, did, and may well be one of the only father and son combinations in the United States to have done so. Both La Salle high school graduates, Bob’s Notre Dame team won the title in 1977, and son Joe’s Ohio State team became the latest national champion with their victory Jan. 12.
Scouts liked what they saw in Bob as a long snapper, so Bob was offered a preferred walk-on at Notre Dame. Joe, a La Salle all-state linebacker, was offered a few football scholarships, but chose to attend Ohio State as preferred walk-on.
Bob’s 1977 championship season came as a freshman, while Joe’s 2014 Ohio State team won his junior year. Both teams were rated high preseason; Notre Dame No. 1 and Ohio State No. 5.
Both teams were upset their second game of the year making it appear their championship run was over. Both teams were led, in the championship game by a quarterback that was third string at the beginning of the year. Joe Montana replaced Rusty Lish and Forystek while Buckeye quarterback Cardale Jones replaced Braxton Miller and J. T. Barrett.
To become national champs, No. 5 Notre Dame had to beat the No. 1 Texas Longhorns, who featured Heisman Trophy winner Earl Campbell. Ohio State had to best No. 2 Oregon who feature Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota.
Texas would end up committing seven turnovers as the Irish went on to trounce the Longhorns 38-10. Notre Dame had done their job, but other things had to fall in place. It worked almost like clockwork. A Lou Holtz- coached Arkansas team defeated No. 2 Oklahoma. No. 4 Michigan lost in the Rose Bowl to Washington. No. 3 Alabama won, so it came down to them and Notre Dame. The pollsters unanimously picked Notre Dame as national champs.
Because of the new playoff system, Ohio State knew immediately after their 42-20 win that they were champs.
On advice offered to his son Joe before his championship game against Oregon, Bob said, “Enjoy it and treasure the moment. This is a very special experience. It is one of the most challenging and exhilarating moments in your life. Have fun.”