Goshen News, Goshen, IN

January 6, 2013

NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL: Elkhart native played for Crimson Tide

By GREG KEIM
THE GOSHEN NEWS

ELKHART — Elkhart native Mike Stock will be in attendance at Monday night’s BCS National Championship Game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish  and the Alabama Crimson Tide. Unlike a lot of people from northern Indiana, though, he will not be cheering for ND.Unlike a lot of people from northern Indiana, though, he will not be cheering for ND.

He has a personal reason why he is pulling for the Crimson Tide.

The reason Stock (1972 Elkhart High School graduate) will be rooting for the Crimson Tide is he played football at Alabama for the legendary coach Bear Bryant.

“Growing up in Elkhart next door to Notre Dame, my dad took me to games and I dreamed about playing there,” Stock said. “Notre Dame did offer me a scholarship, but I felt my chances to get playing time were better at Alabama.”

Stock remains close to a number of his teammates at Alabama and a group of seven will be at the game Monday night.

“The seven of us get together every year for three or four days to play golf and go fishing,” he said.

Stock has personally experienced the Notre Dame-Alabama rivalry with a National Championship on the line. He played on the 1973 Crimson Tide squad that lost to ND 24-23 in the Sugar Bowl as the Irish won the program’s ninth National Championship.

“That was such a great game,” Stock recalled. “It was a game between two of the top college football programs and two of the top coaches in Ara Parseghian (Notre Dame) and Bear Bryant. It lived up to hype and went down to the wire.”

Stock almost won the game for Alabama when he tossed a touchdown pass to sophomore quarterback Richard Todd on a halfback option, giving the Crimson Tide a 23-21 lead with 9:39 left in the fourth quarter.

The problem was the Crimson Tide missed the ensuing PAT, allowing the Irish a chance to win the game with a field goal. Notre Dame took advantage of the opportunity as quarterback Tom Clements drove the team 79 yards in 11 plays for a game-winning field goal of 19 yards by Bob Thomas with 4:26 left to play.

“I felt we had the better team,” Stock said. “I have watched the tape of the game many times. I didn’t miss losing when you felt you got beat by a better team, but we lost that game because of a missed extra point. I have always wished we could have played them again.”

Alabama lost to the Irish 13-11 the next year in the Orange Bowl.

Despite two disappointing losses by a total of three points, Stock has respect for the Notre Dame program.

“Ara was such a class act,” he said. “He was good for college football.”

That’s high praise when considering Stock played for another coaching legend. Bryant’s career record in college was 323-85-17. His Alabama squads won six National Championships and 13 SEC titles.

Stock is looking forward to Monday’s matchup.

“Alabama and Notre Dame are two of the most storied programs in college football history,” he said. “Alabama was ranked No. 1 in 1973 and 1974 when Notre Dame beat us. Both games went down to the last play.

“Having Notre Dame back in the national championship picture is good for college football, but if Alabama plays its game the Crimson Tide should win.”

In his final college game, Stock scored the only TD of the game as Alabama defeated Penn State 13-6 on Dec. 31, 1975, in the very first Sugar Bowl played in the Louisiana Superdome. Stock scored on a 14-yard run to give the Crimson Tide a 10-3 lead at 1:42 of the third period.

“I was glad I could win my last game for Bear,” Stock said.

He missed Alabama’s National Championship game a year ago with LSU.

“I had a business conflict and have the same one this year, but since Alabama is playing Notre Dame there was no way I was missing this one,” Stock said.

Stock was an all-around athlete at Elkhart back in the days before the school was split into Elkhart Central and Elkhart Memorial for the 1972-73 school year. He lettered three years in football, basketball and track.

As a junior quarterback in 1971 he scored eight TDs, leading the Blue Blazers to a 9-1 record and NIC and state championships. An ankle injury prevented him from playing, but he was a member of the Elkhart basketball team that was the state runner-up in 1971 and he placed fourth in pole vault at the state meet, also as a junior.

Stock has been inducted into the Elkhart County Sports Hall of Fame and the Indiana Football Hall of Fame.

He graduated from Alabama in 1976 and went into business.

“I had invitations to try out for a few pro teams,” he said. “Had I been a little bigger it might have been an option. I went to Alabama to find out how good I could be and after graduating figured out there were probably better ways of making a living.”

Stock is now the owner and chief executive officer of Mito Corp. in Elkhart.

“We supply a lot of electronics to the RV, marine and auto industries,” he said. “Basically anything that floats or has wheels.”

Stock feels he owes some of his success to lessons he learned while playing at Alabama for Bryant.

“I gave always told people the best business class I ever had at Alabama was playing football for coach Bryant,” he said. “Coach was all business when it came to football. He taught us a lot of life lessons like it was not important if you were up or if you were down. It was important that you got back up.”