‘Golden Boy’ Mirer Graced Sports Illustrated Cover 30 Years Ago (2024)

‘Golden Boy’ Mirer Graced Sports Illustrated Cover 30 Years Ago (1)

Nearly 30 years later, they’re shipped directly to his office in Napa, Calif., or arrive postmarked from Indiana, seeking his autograph.

Dutifully, as he has since he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated following No. 1 Notre Dame’s Sept. 15, 1990 season-opening victory over No. 4 Michigan, Rick Mirer signs it and sends it back.

“I don’t know how, but they keep coming to me all the time,” laughed an astonished Mirer from his home in southern California. “I’d say it’s three, four or five every single day, which is scary.

“I don’t want any more, but I sign them. I sit there and (wife) Stephanie’s like, ‘What are you doing?’ I don’t know what to do other than sign them. I don’t want to throw them away, so I do it.”

Mirer, whose 18-yard touchdown pass to Adrian Jarrell with 1:40 remaining put the Irish in front for good in a 28-24 victory over Michigan, scored a first-quarter touchdown en route to an early 14-3 lead. But the Wolverines, led by quarterback Elvis Grbac, scored the next 21 points to forge a 24-14 advantage.

Mirer then directed the Irish on their final two touchdown drives of the game and Reggie Brooks – yes, the Reggie Brooks who would rush for 1,343 yards two years later – intercepted a late desperation pass by Grbac to seal the victory.

Sports Illustrated used the picture of Mirer’s first-quarter rushing touchdown on its cover, his arms raised with the headline “Golden Boy.” More than 30 years earlier, Irish Heisman Trophy winner Paul Hornung acquired the nickname, due in part, of course, to Notre Dame’s historic Golden Dome.

It seemed appropriate to pull the moniker out once again, this time for the highly-touted prospect out of Goshen, Ind. who chose Notre Dame over Michigan during a heated recruiting process.

“There were teammates that gave me a hard time about that,” said Mirer of the cover headline. “Some guys will still call me Goldie. It’s funny. It’s amazing what sticks.

“That cover is my favorite thing to sign, but you think after all these years there would only be so many.”

There were numerous things about that moment in time, the history of it, and the remaining connections that make Mirer’s appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated 30 years ago unique.

Two Michigan players in the picture trailed Mirer as he crossed the goal line, including No. 97, defensive lineman Chris Hutchison. His uncle served as Mirer’s principal at Goshen High School. Hutchinson’s son, Aidan, is now a standout defensive end for the Wolverines.

“Chris was my host on my high school visit to Michigan,” Mirer said. “I really don’t know him now. I’ve stayed in touch with him a little bit.”

Mirer likely will connect with Hutchinson in the near future. The father of three boys, Mirer’s oldest – Morrison – will be a senior on the Notre Dame lacrosse team. His middle son – Oliver – will be a sophom*ore on the Michigan lacrosse team. The two were scheduled to square off this past March at Notre Dame when the pandemic hit, thus ending the season.

“They literally would have gone against each other,” Mirer said. “Oliver would have defended Mo. Oliver was supposed to be in South Bend on the 15th of March, which turned out being the day he and I flew home from Detroit after moving him out of the dorm.”

Mirer still intends to hook up with Chris Hutchinson – today an emergency room doctor in Royal Oak, Mich., about 45 miles from Ann Arbor -- during one of his visits to see Oliver play.

Rick Mirer actually came very close to choosing Michigan over Notre Dame while visiting UCLA and home-state Indiana while considering Florida State before then-Seminole grad assistant Mark Richt was named offensive coordinator at East Carolina.

Mirer’s parents both attended Eastern Michigan. Father Ken, who coached the Goshen High School football team before Rick ascended to the varsity, was raised in Ypsilanti, Mich., about a 20-minute drive from Ann Arbor. His mother, Karen, was raised in Detroit, about 45 minutes from the Michigan campus.

“Those were my last two schools,” said Mirer of Notre Dame and Michigan. “I’m glad that cover happened against them because it’s so much more meaningful, to my parents as well.

“Bo Schembechler was someone who was very well respected in my house. But his health scared me because I wanted to be with a guy that was going to be there the whole time I was there. So I’ve never had any ill will toward that place. I understand how Notre Dame people see that rivalry, but Michigan was always a place I had a ton of respect for.

“It’s funny for Oliver to end up there. Now I’m the Michigan dad on certain weekends with the Michigan hat. I’m not going to wear anything that says USC or Miami, but I’ll wear the (Michigan) hat because it’s still your kid. His coach has taken my picture wearing the hat because he thinks it’s funny. I’m just a proud dad on those days.”

And then there was the 16-year-old hot-shot golfer in the back of that edition of Sports Illustrated in the section known as “Faces In The Crowd.” Shortly thereafter, Eldrick “Tiger” Woods would become perhaps the greatest golfer of all-time. But in September of 1990, the college football world belonged to Mirer and Notre Dame, which had ascended to No. 1 in the nation prior to the Michigan game after No. 1 Miami had fallen to BYU.

“I picked the right school and it was just my turn,” said Mirer of his appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated. “The magazine part was bonus. Schembechler was on the other sideline. I knew that whole sideline of Michigan guys. And then stepping into the group I was with, everybody was expecting to win every Saturday. So it was kind of a dream come true. I just didn’t want to be the one to mess it up.

“I’ll never forget, Rocket (Raghib Ismail) told me, because he had been on the cover before. He said, ‘Man, you’re going to have to sign every one of them.’ Sometimes I think I have.”

‘Golden Boy’ Mirer Graced Sports Illustrated Cover 30 Years Ago (2024)


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