Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback (1943, 1946-1947)
(January 4, 1925-present)
- Heisman Trophy winner in 1947
- Drafted in the 1st round of the 1946 NFL Draft with the 4th pick by the Chicago Bears
- Inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1960
John Christopher Lujack, Jr., was the 1947 winner of the Heisman Memorial Trophy after leading the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to back-to-back national championships.
It was actually the third time Lujack had led the Irish to the national title counting the 1943 season. Lujack took over the quarterback position for Notre Dame after six games when the previous starter Angelo Bertelli was called up for active duty in the Marines along with a number of other Fighting Irish players. Bertelli’s six-game performance was good enough to win Notre Dame’s first Heisman Trophy, and Lujack then guided the depleted Irish to three straight wins over Army (26-0), Northwestern (25-6) and Iowa Navy Pre-Flight (14-13). Only a 19-14 loss to Great Lakes NTS in the season finale marred Notre Dame’s 9-1 season, but by then, the Irish had already clinched the national championship.
Lujack’s own career at Notre Dame, however, was interrupted at the conclusion of the season, and he spent two years of service in the Navy prior to returning to South Bend in the fall of 1946. He reassumed the quarterback position leading the Fighting Irish to another national title before putting the wraps on his career in 1947 with a third national championship to go along with the Heisman Trophy.
While he made his mark as the team’s quarterback passing for a combined 1,569 yards and 14 touchdowns during the team’s 1946-47 title runs, he also played defensive back where he made a touchdown-saving tackle of 1945 Heisman winner Doc Blanchard of Army in a 1946 game that ended in a 0-0 tie. It was the only blemish on an otherwise perfect 17-0-1 record in his final two years at Notre Dame, but the play to stop Blanchard kept the Irish undefeated in that span.
Lujack was selected with the fourth overall pick in the 1946 NFL Draft, but he elected to play out his final two years of eligibility at Notre Dame first. He joined the Bears in 1948 serving as a backup quarterback to Hall of Famer Sid Luckman as a rookie alongside another future Hall of Famer Bobby Layne who was playing his only year in Chicago. Lujack spent most of his time on the field on defense where he intercepted eight passes as a defensive back.
Luckman, however, was 33 by the time the 1949 season rolled around, and Lujack started most of the games at quarterback where he set career highs for attempts, completions, yards and touchdown passes connecting on 162-of-312 attempts for 2,658 yards, 23 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. Lujack was especially brilliant in the season finale on Sunday, December 11, leading the Bears past the crosstown rival Chicago Cardinals 52-21. In front of 50,101 fans at Wrigley Field, Lujack tossed six touchdown passes and set an NFL record with 468 passing yards – a mark broken three years later by Norm Van Brocklin and passed many times since.
His passing numbers dipped over the final two years of his career in 1950 and 1951, although he set a record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in 1950 with 11 scores – a record that was tied by Green Bay’s Tobin Rote in 1956 but stood until it was broken by New England’s Steve Grogan in 1976. He left pro football after his initial four-year contract returning to Notre Dame as an assistant coach under Frank Leahy in 1952 and 1953 to repay his former head coach for initially giving him a scholarship.
In later years, Lujack worked as a color commentator for CBS covering New York Giants’ games from 1958-1961 before being replaced by Pat Summerall. He later continued as a broadcaster doing college football broadcasts for both ABC and CBS in the late 1960’s. Away from football, he got into the car dealership business in 1954 partnering with his father-in-law in the Lujack Shierbrock Chevrolet Company of Davenport, Iowa, which eventually expanded to include other dealerships for other brands. He sold his own interest in the company to his son-in-law in 1988, but the Lujack name is still on several dealerships in the Quad Cities area.
Where’s the trophy?
The location of Johnny Lujack’s Heisman Trophy has not been determined.
Videos and highlights
The Adventures of Johnny Lujack
An Interview with Johnny Lujack
1947 Army-Notre Dame Game
Game of the Century: 1946 Army-Notre Dame Game
Johnny Lujack’s Notre Dame Highlights
Lou Holtz to Johnny Lujack and Paul Hornung
Fayette County (Connellsville, PA) Hall of Fame Induction
A Slideshow of the Frank Leahy Dynasty
Lujack tackles Blanchard to save Notre Dame’s 1946 national title season
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