September 26, 2023

Johnny Lujack, famed Notre Dame quarterback who received the 1947 Heisman Trophy, performed in three nationwide championships after which performed within the NFL for the Chicago Bears, died Tuesday in Florida. He was 98 years previous.

His demise was introduced by Notre Dame.

When the school soccer season started in 1947, Lujack was on the duvet of Life journal, kneeling in his inexperienced jersey, gold helmet, and pants. He has been Notre Dame’s most well-known participant because the Twenties, when Whip Rockne, Gipper and the 4 Horsemen turned a small Roman Catholic college within the obscure South Bend, Indiana, into a preferred tradition trademark.

Lujak was an excellent passer and good quarterback runner, in addition to an excellent defensive linebacker, fielder and occasional punter. He was a two-time All-American and performed just one dropping soccer sport at Notre Dame. He additionally performed baseball and basketball and ran observe and subject.

He was elected to the School Soccer Corridor of Fame in 1960 and was the oldest residing winner of the Heisman Award, awarded yearly to the highest participant in school soccer.

“He is in all probability the best all-rounder I’ve ever seen in school soccer,” Frank Tripuka, Lujak’s stand-in at Notre Dame and longtime skilled quarterback, instructed Steve Delson in an oral historical past of Speaking Irish (1998).

Ludzhek acquired tons of of letters from followers in Notre Dame. Whereas enjoying for the Bears, he portrayed himself within the ABC radio sequence The Adventures of Johnny Lujack, a 1949 summer season alternative for the longtime Jack Armstrong, All-American Boy.

Luzhak grew to become the protector of Notre Dame in November 1943 when Angelo Bertelli left for navy service. He led the Irish to a 9-1 document and their first nationwide #1.

He left Notre Dame for the Navy throughout World Battle II and served aboard a vessel chasing German submarines into the English Channel. He returned in 1946 when the Irish fielded a strong group of principally warfare veterans.

When Notre Dame performed the Military within the November 1946 Undefeated Groups Recreation, Luzhak was limping with a sprained ankle, however he performed each offense and protection nonetheless. He threw three interceptions however saved Notre Dame’s place within the third quarter as a defensive midfielder.

Crossing the sphere, he introduced down Military fullback Doc Blanchard, the 1945 Heisman winner, on the Irish 36-yard line with a low deal with as Blanchard raced down the left touchline.

“I used to be the final man between him and a landing,” Lujack instructed The New York Instances in 1981. “Later I learn that I used to be the one man who ever made a one-on-one deal with with him. If I had identified this in the course of the sport, I in all probability would have missed the deal with.”

The so-called “Recreation of the Century” ended 0-0. However Notre Dame (8-0-1) overtook the Military of their second nationwide championship, and Lujak was named an All-American.

Lujak led Notre Dame to a 9-0 document and a 3rd nationwide championship in 1947 when he received the Heisman Trophy when he threw for 9 touchdowns and 777 yards and rushed for 139, averaging over 11 yards per carry. The Related Press named him American Athlete of the Yr.

In January 1948, the Bears signed Lujek to a four-year contract and a bonus totaling about $80,000. (simply over $1 million in immediately’s cash).

Lujack led the NFL in passes accomplished (162), passing yards (2,658), and landing passes (23) in 1949, when he threw six touchdowns and set a league-record 468 yards in a sport in opposition to the Chicago Cardinals. He was a two-time Professional Bowl participant and was named an NFL First Staff Participant in 1950. He retired after 4 professional seasons to turn out to be a again coach at Notre Dame.

John Christopher Ludzhek, Jr. was born to a household of Polish origin on January 4, 1925 within the city of Connellsville in western Pennsylvania. He was one in every of six kids of John and Alice (Skovronek) Luzhak. His father labored as a boilermaker on the railroad.

Johnny was a star at Connellsville Excessive College in soccer, basketball, and observe and subject, and he received excited when he listened to Notre Dame video games on the radio. It arrived at Notre Dame in 1942 when coach Frank Leahy was putting in a T-shape as an alternative of a single wing.

When Bertelli joined the Marines, leaving the Notre Dame group, which received its first six video games, Lujak actually took his place. “My boot was torn from a boot within the earlier sport,” he instructed The Instances in 1981. “When Bertelli left, I requested for a brand new pair and so they stated, ‘Why do not you strive on a Bertelli boot?’ He stated they match effectively so I saved carrying them for the remainder of the season.”

Lujak led Notre Dame to 3 extra wins after which suffered the one lack of his school profession when Notre Dame misplaced to the Nice Lakes Naval Coaching Facility, which fielded distinguished ex-players with navy service. Bertelli was named the primary Irish Heisman winner on the finish of the season.

When Lujack joined the Bears after two post-war seasons at Notre Dame, he alternated as a quarterback with Sid Luckman and Lujack’s newcomer Bobby Lane, future Professional Soccer Corridor of Famers. He additionally performed protection, intercepting eight passes.

Finally, Lujack grew to become the Bears’ #1 quarterback and hit 41 profession touchdowns and hurried one other 21 in 4 seasons. However in 1950, he was hampered by accidents to each shoulders; he continued to play regardless of the ache, and on the finish of the 1951 season, he was rested in locations to keep up arm power.

When his four-year contract ended, he needed to be traded. Along with the beatings inflicted on him, he had lengthy been offended with George Halas, proprietor and coach of the Bears. Lujak later recalled that upon reviewing his contract to hitch the Bears, he found that Halas had modified the agreed pay figures, lowering the full by $1,500. (Halas, he stated, was fast to get better that quantity when he identified the discrepancy.)

“I do not thoughts somebody being a tricky negotiator,” Lujack instructed Jeff Davis in his 2005 biography of Halas, Papa Bear. “I simply do not wish to be lied to due to my inexperience.”

When Leahy provided Lujak a job as an assistant coach at Notre Dame in 1952, he accepted, ending his skilled profession. However when Terry Brennan, former Notre Dame linebacker standout, was named head coach in 1954 after Leahy retired, Lujack left to run the household’s Iowa auto dealership. Later, he was a community broadcast analyst for school and professional soccer.

Details about Lujack’s survivors and the place in Florida he was on the time of his demise was not instantly obtainable.

Through the years, Lujak remained a revered determine in Notre Dame.

When Notre Dame and the Military met on the first soccer sport on the new Yankee Stadium in 2010, he was on the sphere for the toss with the group captains. Within the fall of 2012, he was a Goodwill Ambassador for Notre Dame when he performed in Dublin with the Navy.

The reminiscence of his exploits has been preserved.

“The 2 best winners of the Nineteen Forties had been Roosevelt Roosevelt and John Lujack,” Beano Cook dinner, a longtime ESPN soccer analyst, as soon as stated. “However even Roosevelt solely received two picks within the Nineteen Forties, whereas Lujak received three nationwide titles.”

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