The legend of Notre Dame's Leprechaun
For over a half century, Notre Dame has been represented by a leprechaun.
Being one of the most recognizable mascots in sports, the origin of the famous Fighting Irishman traces back to the work of a local artist.
Jacquie Friend last stepped foot in Notre Dame Stadium as a teenager in the 1960’s.
“To come here and be surrounded by the sense of the Leprechaun and the Fighting Irish, it’s pretty overwhelming. I am absolutely thrilled for my father because in his lifetime he didn’t have the recognition,” said Friend.
The father that she so fondly speaks of is Ted Drake.
Drake was born in Bremen, IN and graduated from Elkhart High School in 1927.
With a passion for commercial art, Drake went back to Elkhart after enlisting in the military during World War II.
Amy Christiansen is with the Elkhart County Historical Museum
“After the Navy, he worked for Wilson Sporting Goods doing advertisements for them. In the early 1960’s, the University of Notre Dame was looking to change their logo from the terrier clashmore to a logo more representative of their Irish heritage,” said Christiansen.
So the university turned to the local artist for help.
“Apparently as a young child, he drew leprechauns, so that’s something he had done for many years. The idea was that it would be used one time on the little cards they give out on the games for the season that would be it, they paid him $50 and it exploded,” said Friend.
In 1964 the world took notice when the Leprechaun graced the cover of Time Magazine with Head Coach Ara Parseghian.
More than 50 years later the Leprechaun is one of the most recognizable mascots and logos.
“Ted Drake did work on the Fighting Irishman logo but he also worked on football program covers for Notre Dame as well as the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame,” said Christiansen.
Now nearly two decades after her father's death Jacquie Friend finds herself following a once familiar path.
A half century has passed since she walked these concrete concourses with her dad.
Those program covers now hanging.
Ted Drake’s work is once again on display for the world and his daughter to see.
“First thing that goes through my mind would be ‘you did it. You did it. There is the recognition. And I’m so glad that I could do that for him. And I love you dad,” said Friend.
Note: Drake is also the artist behind the Chicago Bulls logo as well. That logo has gone unchanged since it was first introduced in the late 60’s.