Born on January 4, 1925
July 24, 2023
June 17, 2022
South Bend, Indiana
University of Notre Dame
Connellsville High School
John Lujack replaced Angelo Bertelli when he was called to active duty in WWII. John led ND to important victories over Army 26-0 and Iowa Preflight 14-13, clinching the National Championship. He also lettered in basketball, baseball and track. He was the first 4 sport letterman at ND since 1912. After active duty, he returned to ND as their qb in 46-47. Notre Dame went 17-0-1 in that period and won 2 National Championships. Johnny Lujack was one of the faces of Notre Dame’s golden age, the second of three Irish players to win the Heisman Trophy in the 1940s and the quarterback of three national championship teams. “Even by Notre Dame standards, you always felt he was larger than life,” said John Heisler, who has written a dozen books on the history of the storied program where he was once was an associate athletic director. “Part of that comes with winning the Heisman Trophy, part comes from being a quarterback at Notre Dame and part comes from the sheer force of his personality.” Lujack is considered one of the greatest Notre Dame players of all time. He was a two-time unanimous All-American who won the Heisman in 1947 and led the Irish to national titles in 1943, 1946 and 1947. He also lettered in baseball, basketball and track. Lujack was ahead of his time as a passer and posted a 20-1-1 record as starting quarterback for coach Frank Leahy. The native of Connellsville, Pennsylvania, played for the Irish in 1942 and ‘43, served two years in the Navy during World War II, and returned to Notre Dame for the 1946 and ’47 seasons. He was The Associated Press athlete of the year in 1947, when he was a first-round draft pick of the Chicago Bears. He played four seasons for the Bears, leading the team in scoring each year before retiring at age 26. While Lujack had plenty of offensive highlights at Notre Dame, he is best remembered for a play he made as a defensive back in an era when players stayed on the field for nearly every play. A standing-room-only crowd of about 75,000 packed Yankee Stadium in 1946 to see No. 1 Army — the two-time defending national champions — face then-rival Notre Dame, which was ranked No. 2. Lujack made the game-saving tackle against Doc Blanchard in a 0-0 tie in what is frequently referred to as the game of the century. With the ball at the Army 44, Blanchard broke through the line and had open field down the left sideline before Lujack came from the other side to make a diving, shoestring tackle at the Irish 36. “Understanding that people were playing both ways in that period, in some ways it’s ironic a guy who was a quarterback, and a great one, is remembered for that one play,” Heisler said. Lujack downplayed the tackle of Blanchard, who won the Heisman in 1945. “You were back there,” Lujack said. “You were supposed to make the tackle.” Lujack finished third in Heisman voting in 1946 before he won the award as the college game’s outstanding player the next year, when he led the Irish to a 9-0 record and their second straight title.
Lujack was unanimous All-American two years and won the Heisman in 1947. He also played defensive back. In 1946, he tackled Doc Blanchard, cutting off a sure Army touchdown, in a game that ended 0-0. His passing stats at Notre Dame included 14 touchdowns and 1,569 total yards.
Lujack played for the Chicago Bears from 1948-51. Lujack intercepted eight passes as a rookie with the Bears and in 1949 he threw for 468 yards and six touchdowns in a 52-21 win over the Chicago Cardinals. He played in the Pro Bowl his final two seasons before retiring. He later owned a car dealership in Davenport, Iowa. Lujack was an avid golfer who recorded eight holes-in-one and continued to ride around courses on his cart long after he quit playing. He liked to tell people about the time he spilled a milkshake on his most famous golf partner — former President Gerald Ford. Lujack was an avid golfer who recorded eight holes-in-one and continued to ride around courses on his cart long after he quit playing. He liked to tell people about the time he spilled a milkshake on his most famous golf partner — former President Gerald Ford.