Jerome Bettis avoids coin toss, but plays a good commissioner in Notre Dame Blue-Gold draft

Jerome Bettis, right, takes a photo with the first offensive lineman pick Zeke Correll during the Blue-Gold Spring Football Game Draft on Wednesday, April 20, 2022, at Notre Dame in South Bend.

SOUTH BEND — When it came time to divvy up the teams for Saturday's annual Blue-Gold Spring Football Game, first-year head coach Marcus Freeman had a thought.

Make the process an event, akin to the NFL Draft. 

And with that, the first Blue-Gold Game player draft commenced Wednesday inside the Irish Indoor Athletics Center. 

"I thought it was a little bit of fun," Freeman said afterward. "It is going to be competitive on Saturday, but I want to have fun. I want our guys to really enjoy this experience of being drafted and taking some ownership of the team they are on and find a way to win."

Kickoff for the Blue-Gold Game is set for 1 p.m. Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium. It will serve as the 15th and final practice of the Spring window. 

The Irish played up Wednesday's draft, assembling a stage at the 50-yard line complete with a podium where the "commissioner" would announce the selections. 

Playing the part of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was former Notre Dame running back and NFL Hall-of-Famer Jerome Bettis. The "Bus," as he's nicknamed, starred for the Irish from 1990-92 and is back on campus completing his business degree after more than a decade in the NFL with the Los Angeles Rams, where he won Offensive Rookie of the Year, and the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he won a Super Bowl.

Notre Dame assistants Al Washington (defensive line) and Deland McCullough (running backs) are assigned honorary head coaches for Saturday and were responsible for selecting the teams. They were counseled by select senior players.

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Washington will coach the Blue team and McCullough the Gold. 

A coin toss would determine who picked first, but Bettis refused to do it.

"I have a bad history with coin tosses," Bettis joked. "Because there is a rule in the NFL — the Jerome Bettis Rule that says I'm a terrible coin tosser."

He was referencing to the famous 1998 Thanksgiving Day game between the Steelers and Detroit Lions. The game went into sudden-death overtime. As a team captain for the visitors, Bettis called the coin flip to determine possession.

Referee Phil Luckett flipped the coin and Bettis appeared on national television to call tails. The coin landed on tails, but Luckett insisted that Bettis had called heads-tails, and reverted to the first.

The Lions won the toss and the game. The "Jerome Bettis Rule" now requires captains to state their call before the coin is flipped. 

So, Freeman ended up tossing the coin. There were no issues as Gold won the first pick.

"It was awesome," Freeman said. "I thought it was a great environment. I thought Jerome Bettis did an unbelievable job being the commissioner." 

Buchner sidelined

⦁ Quarterback Tyler Buchner had sprained his ankle walking down the stairs and will be out for the game.

⦁ Quarterback Drew Pyne will play on both teams because there are only three healthy quarterbacks on the roster. This could be his big chance to prove why he should be the starter moving forward.

⦁ Offensive linemen will be wearing green jerseys on Saturday. Freeman said some of them will have to play both ways.

Draft notes

⦁ The first player selected was offensive lineman Zeke Correll by the Gold team.

⦁ The first receiver taken was Lorenzo Styles by the Blue team.

⦁ Michael Mayer was the first tight end drafted, and it was by the Gold team.

Michael Mayer smiles as he is announced the first tight end pick during the Blue-Gold Spring Football Game Draft on Wednesday, April 20, 2022, at Notre Dame in South Bend.

⦁ The first running back taken was Logan Diggs by the Blue team.

⦁ Clarence Lewis was the first cornerback taken, and he went to the Blue team.

⦁ The first linebacker off the board was Marist Liufau by the Blue team.

⦁ Brandon Joseph was the first safety taken, and he is a member of the Gold team.

⦁ Howard Cross III was the first defensive lineman taken, and he is on the Gold team.

⦁ Punter Bryan Dowd was the first special teamer selected.

⦁ There was one trade: Alex Peitsch was traded for Bryan Dowd.

Players walked up to the podium, had their jersey handed to them, and took a picture with Bettis similar to the one Roger Goodell, NFL Commissioner, takes on draft night with the players in attendance.

Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman hands a draft card to Jerome Bettis during the Blue-Gold Spring Football Game Draft on Wednesday, April 20, 2022, at Notre Dame in South Bend.

Players who will not participate

Quarterback Tyler Buchner, linebacker J.D. Bertrand, cornerback Cam Hart, center Jarrett Patterson, and tackle Joey Tanona.

Questionable players

Cornerback Jayden Bellamy, defensive lineman Tyson Ford, fullback Davis Sherwood, running back Chris Tyree.

Probable players

Offensive lineman Tosh Baker, safety Houston Griffith, linebacker Jack Kiser, running back Jadarian Price, receiver Lorenzo Styles, receiver Jayden Thomas.