Legendary Notre Dame quarterback and 1947 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Lujack passed away on Tuesday (July 25, 2023) in Naples, Florida at the age of 98. He led Notre Dame to three national championships.
Lujack’s ND career started in 1942 after an outstanding multi-sport high school career in Connellsville, Pennsylvania. In his senior year there, he led his team to an 8-0-1 record. Lujack was also the Connellsville class valedictorian and senior class President.
Lujack, had frequently listened to Notre Dame games on the radio as a youth and as a result accepted Frank Leahy’s scholarship offer to come to ND in 1942. In 1943 he came off the bench after 6 games to fill in for another Heisman winner, Angelo Bertelli, who had been drafted into the Marine Corp. ND’s ’43 team finished 9-1, and won the national championship.
Lujack then spent most of the next three years in the U.S. Navy as an officer in the English Channel hunting German submarines.
He returned to ND after the war in 1946 and rejoined his old coach Frank Leahy and for the next two seasons with Lujack at quarterback, defensive back and kicker, the Irish never lost. They went 8-0-1 in 1946 and 9-0 in 1947. Both teams were awarded the national championship. It has been said that the 1947 team, from top to bottom was the greatest accumulation of talent in college football history. 46 of the players on that team, including Lujack, went on play professional football.
Lujack, was a consensus All-American in 1946 and repeated that feat in 1947 and added the Heisman trophy to his list of honors. He also was named the AP Athlete of the year for 1947. In his ND career he threw 19 touchdown passes and 2,080 yards he added another 438 yards rushing. Lujack was also known as a hard-hitting defensive back, and fine kicker.
While at Notre Dame, Lujack continued his multi-sport prowess and won monograms in four sports, football, baseball, basketball and track.
Lujack went on to be the 4th overall pick in the 1948 NFL Draft, and played 4 years for the Chicago Bears. In 1948 he intercepted 9 passes and in 1949 he led the NFL in passing yards and touchdowns. In 1950 he set an NFL record for quarterbacks with 11 rushing touchdowns. In 1950 and 1951 he was named to the Pro Bowl team.
He returned to Notre Dame as a coach in 1952, and was a contender to succeed Leahy as head coach in 1954, a job that eventually went to Terry Brennan.
After two years of coaching he went into the car dealership business and owned a Chevrolet dealership in Davenport Iowa with his father-in-law. He remained in the auto business until 1988.
During the late 50s and the 60s he served stints as a television color commentator on CBS and ABC. He worked with both Jim McKay and Chris Schenkel on both college and pro games.
Lujack made frequent appearances at Notre Dame stadium, and was a long time season ticket holder. He was in attendance and honored in 2019 when ND defeated New Mexico 66-14.
Lujack was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in the class of 1960.
He leaves behind Patricia Ann, his wife of 74 years and two children Mary and Jeff. A third child,daughter Carol, passed away in 2002.