Johnny Lujack

Over the past 60 years RABBLE has seen some wonderful collegiate football players- Davis, Tucker, Blanchard, Galiffa, Anderson, Dawkins, Mayweather and McAda. The list goes on and on. Army football players, of course. In every game tho, there is always the opponent and their players equally talented, that has bought this older fella a lot of good memories too- Hart, Lattner, Staubach, Bellino and Hornung. That list too goes on and on.

One player to this day still stands out in his memory as one of the finest football players of his era or any era for that matter-Johnny Lujack of the University of Notre Dame.

Many an old timer will recall on that fateful day back in Yankee Stadium in 1946 when the two behemoths of collegiate football in the 1940's, West Point and Notre Dame both undefeated and rated one and two in the country at the time, a guy by the name of Lujack bought down the great Doc Blanchard on an open field tackle when the Doc most assuredly would have scored a touchdown to give Army the lead and possibly the victory. No one scored that day in a 0-0 game which I consider to be one of the great games ever played by college kids at any time in history. Fast forward to 1947, three days before the Army was to play the Irish for the last time in the series that was being discontinued, a series that stretched all the way back to 1913.

Jimmy Cannon, one of the truly great sports reporters in New York in those days wrote the following article about the great Johnny Lujack who was to play his final game against the Army team in Notre Dame Stadium on November 8, 1947 before the usual 59,000 diehard Irish faithful.


By Jimmy Cannon
November 5, 1947

SOUTH BEND, Indiana - Sitting around and talking with sports writers yesterday, Frank Leahy, Notre Dame coach, casually remarked that he would not trade Johnny Lujack for any other quarterback in the country if such transaction were permitted under the laws of college football. There isn't a guy on the Notre Dame squad who can break away and go all the way if he gets loose, and their offensive game is built around the way Lujack throws a pass. Although there are other guys who can kick a football farther, Lujack does the punting because Leahy wants him back there as there are few finer downfield tacklers enrolled at a university in this country. Although Lujack will start Saturday against Army as the quarterback, the chances are he will be used as a halfback and maybe as a fullback and Leahy said yesterday he would be in the game all the time Army has the ball. Lujack played 60 minutes against Army last season and he will probably not come out of there unless he is hurt.

Lujack, who has the poise of a guy resentfully accustomed to being asked questions by interviewers, sat, unshaven and alertly young, on a bench before his locker in the clubhouse in Notre Dame Stadium. I asked him if the clubs Notre Dame had played this season were tougher than they were last season. "Purdue is an awful lot tougher," said Lujack, although Notre Dame beat them 22-7. Much tougher, I would say. We couldn't run on them. They're more determined. Even when we scored our first touchdown, they refused to give up. That's always a sign of a good team. Purdue was the best club defensively and Iowa was the best club offensively even if they didn't score and we beat them 20-0.

Purdue has a good all around ball club." But this season, Lujack believes college football is sharper everywhere because the guys out of the service have had a season to become adjusted.

"They're back in the swing of things," Johnny said. "Do you think you're better than last season?" I asked, because in '46 he was as good as they come and only Arnold Tucker of Army was true competition for the All-America quarterback appointment.

"The biggest thing is experience," Lujack said. "You spot receivers better look at a defensive man and know what pass to throw. That's what you call observing. That's what another year of experience does for you." I wanted to know if this season's Notre Dame club is better than the one in '46. "Gee, I don't know," he said and then after a pause: "We're a little slower in getting started than we were last season. But we should be as sharp. Potentially we should be sharper." "You glad Blanchard and Davis aren't coming in Saturday?" I asked. "You got to play to beat a team," Johnny said. "You don't care who is on the team. The thing is to play to beat a team not a couple of fellows. We stopped them last year. We would have stopped them again."

You came out of the dressing room with the feeling that Lujack, who is carefully polite, is embarrassed when a sports writer picks him out and sits down with him. He doesn't want to be separated from the ball club by this attention and his instincts are truly those of a quarterback who realizes that only as whole can a team function. As I talked to him he would reach out and grab a player or playfully punch one as though to show them that his interview was not of his own choosing and he was only being polite to a guy working at his job.

Johnny Lujack, an All-American, led the Irish to a 27-7 win over Army en route to the 1947 Heisman Trophy. Top Stories