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Lujack on a 1948 Bowman football card, wearing jersey No. 32, posing as if attempting a pass
Lujack on a 1948 Bowman football card
Born January 4, 1925(1925-01-04) (age 96)
Connellsville, Pennsylvania

John Christopher Lujack[1] (pronounced Lu' jack; born January 4, 1925) is a former American football quarterback and 1947 Heisman Trophy winner; he is currently the oldest living recipient of the Heisman Trophy. Lujack played college football for the University of Notre Dame, and professionally for the Chicago Bears. He was the first of several successful quarterbacks who hailed from Western Pennsylvania. Others include Pro Football Hall of Fame members Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath, Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, Joe Montana and George Blanda.

Early life and college career[edit | edit source]

Lujack was born to Alice and John,[2] in 1925 in Connellsville, Pennsylvania,[3] the youngest of four sons and fifth child in a family of six children.[3] The family is of Polish descent and included older siblings Valentine ("Val"), Stanislaus ("Stan"), Victoria, Aloysius ("Allie", who went on to play professional basketball), and younger sister Dolores.[1][2][3][4][5] His father, John, worked for the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad for thirty years as a boiler-maker.[5]

He was on the Connellsville High School football team from 1939 to 1941, and was also senior class president and valedictorian.[6] In high school, he lettered in four sports; baseball, football, basketball, and track.[2][7]

His 1941 high school team, named the Cokers for workers in the coal milling industry who feed the ovens, went 8–0–1, but did not get to play for the WPIAL league championship because their last game, with Brownsville, ended in a 13–13 tie.[8]

People in Connellsville had wanted him to go to the United States Military Academy (Army) at West Point, going so far as to ask their local congressman for an appointment, but Lujack, a fan of Notre Dame from listening to their football radio broadcasts, had his heart set on playing in South Bend.[9][10] He was the first Connellsville High School student to receive an appointment to Army.[2]

Lujack attended Notre Dame, where he was given a scholarship by Frank Leahy, from 1942 to 1943 and then 1946 to 1947. His career was interrupted for two years by World War II after his sophomore season, where he served as an officer in the United States Navy. His time in the Navy was spent hunting German submarines in the English Channel as an ensign.[9][10]

When he returned from the Atlantic (ETO) duty he appeared on the cover of the September 29, 1947, issue of LIFE.[11] He led the 1947 Fighting Irish to 9–0 record for his senior year, where he completed 61 passes on 109 attempts for 777 yards and also ran 139 yards on 12 carries, and won the Heisman Trophy.[8] As he had in high school, he once again received varsity letters (called "monograms") in four sports (again baseball, football, basketball, and track) while at Notre Dame, becoming the third person to do so.[9] He was a two-time unanimous All-American (1946 and 1947) and led Notre Dame to three national championships (1943, 1946 and 1947).[12][13] And, in addition to winning the Heisman, he was named Associated Press Athlete of the Year.[10]

Professional career[edit | edit source]

He was paid US$17,000 for his 1948 rookie season with the Bears and $20,000 for his fourth and final season.[8] In his rookie season he played defensive back where he had 8 interceptions for 131 yards and kicked 44 out of 46 extra points.[8][14]

In the summer of 1949 he starred in a radio program on ABC, The Adventures of Johnny Lujack, which was a summertime replacement for the Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy show. It was a 30-minute program and broadcast on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.[15] The show was broadcast from the studios of WGN in Chicago over the Mutual Broadcasting System (MBS) and ran for 13 weeks.[16]

In the final game of the 1949 season, the 9–3 Bears defeated their hometown rivals, the Chicago Cardinals (6–5–1), by a score of 52–21 on December 11. In that game Lujack threw six touchdown passes and set an NFL record with 468 passing yards.[17][18] The record was broken later by Norm Van Brocklin.

His wife is the former Patricia Ann "Pat" Schierbrock, daughter of Josephine (née Wilson) and Frank H. Schierbrock.[19] Lujack and Schierbrock were married in Davenport, Iowa at the Sacred Heart Cathedral on June 26, 1949.[12][20] They have three children:[21] Mary, Jeff, and Carol (1954–2002).[22]

Sid Luckman and George Blanda played behind Lujack in the rotation at quarterback for the 1949 and 1950 seasons.[23][24]

During the 1950 season, Lujack set an NFL record with 11 rushing touchdowns by a quarterback. This record was tied by Tobin Rote with the Green Bay Packers in 1956, and broken by the New England Patriot's Steve Grogan in 1976.[25][26] Lujack, named to the 1950 All-Pro First Team, also set a Bears record for 109 total points in a season with 11 touchdowns, 3 (out of 5) field-goals, and 34 (out of 35) extra points.[27] That record was surpassed by Gale Sayers in 1965 with 123 total points.[28]

Post-playing career[edit | edit source]

After four years with the Bears he returned to Notre Dame as an assistant coach for 1952 and 1953 to repay Frank Leahy as a debt of gratitude for having given him a scholarship to Notre Dame.[6][8] Leahy wanted Lujack to succeed him as the head coach of the Fighting Irish, but Terry Brennan was chosen instead by Reverend Theodore Hesburgh, the university president.[29]

In 1954, he then went into the car dealership business with his father-in-law, at Lujack Schierbrock Chevrolet Company of Davenport, Iowa.[6][30] He sold his dealership interest to his son-in-law in 1988.[31]

Lujack served as a television color commentator for several years, teaming with Chris Schenkel to call New York Giants games on CBS from 1958 to 1961.[21][32][33] However, in 1962 when Ford signed on as a major sponsor and learned that Lujack was a Chevrolet dealer, he was replaced by Pat Summerall.[33][34] He also worked with Jim McKay on CBS doing college football and on ABC college football telecasts in the late 1960s.[citation needed]

On June 8, 1978, Lujack was inducted into the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame.

In 2005, he donated $50,000 to Connellsville High School toward a new field house for the football stadium.[6] It was later named Johnny Lujack Field House.[6] The Johnny Lujack Training Facility was formally dedicated in 2009 and he was also inducted into the inaugural class of the Fayette County Sports Hall of Fame.[10]

He is the oldest living Heisman Trophy winner.[35]

Career statistics[edit | edit source]

College[edit | edit source]

Year Comp Att Pct Yds TD
1946 49 100 49.0 778 6
1947 61 109 56.0 777 9

Professional[edit | edit source]

Year Team GP GS Att Comp Yds TD Int Lng Record
1948 CHI 9 3 66 36 611 6 3 64
1949 CHI 12 7 312 162 2658 23 22 81
1950 CHI 12 12 254 121 1731 4 21 70 9−3−0
1951 CHI 12 6 176 85 1295 8 8 78 4−2−0
Career[36] 45 28 808 404 6295 41 54 81 13−5−0

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Johnson, Rafer (2009). "Great Athletes". Salem Press. p. 278. ISBN 978-1-58765-473-2. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Markoe, Arnie, ed (2002). "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives: Sports Figures, Volume 2". C. Scribner's Sons. p. 79. ISBN 978-0-684-80665-5. https://archive.org/details/scribnerencyclop01mark/page/79. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Current Biography Yearbook: Volumes 1-31". H.W. Wilson Company. 1948. p. 404. 
  4. Luczak. - Connellsville, Fayette, Pennsylvania. - 1930 United States. - United States Census Bureau.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Silverman, Al (1971). "The Best of Sport, 1946-1971". Viking Press. p. 22. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Kroeger, Judy (September 20, 2005). "Football great donates $50,000 for new field house". The Daily Courier (Connellsville). 
  7. "Life's Cover". September 29, 1947. p. 29. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 White, Mike (September 14, 1994). "Johnny Marching Home for Connellsville Honor". p. D-1,D-5. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Pennington, Bill (2004). "The Heisman: Great American Stories of the Men who Won". HarperCollins. pp. 92, 94. ISBN 978-0-06-055471-2. https://archive.org/details/isbn_9780060554712/page/92. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Dvorchak, Robert (July 14, 2009). "Lujack heads inaugural class". 
  11. "Life's Cover". Time, Inc.. September 29, 1947. p. (front cover). ISSN 0024-3019. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 "Milestones". July 5, 1948. 
  13. "The Notre Dame Football Encyclopedia". 2001. p. 128. 
  14. "Johnny Lujack". Sports Reference LLC.. https://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/L/LujaJo00.htm. 
  15. "'Lujack' Replaces 'Jack Armstrong'". June 4, 1949. 
  16. "Federal Communications Commission reports". Federal Communications Commission (printed by United States Government Printing Office). 1962. p. 1003. 
  17. Warren, Harry (December 12, 1949). "Lujack Sets Mark in 52-21 Rout of Cards". p. C1. 
  18. "Chicago Cardinals 21 at Chicago Bears 52". Sports Reference LLC.. December 11, 1949. https://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/194912110chi.htm. 
  19. Curtis, Georgina Pell; Elder, Benedict, eds. "The American Catholic Who's Who". Romig, Walter. p. 410. 
  20. "Miss Schierbrock and Lujack Married In Davenport Church". June 27, 1948. p. A3. 
  21. 21.0 21.1 Markoe. - p.74.
  22. quad cities times May 30, 2002
  23. "1949 Chicago Bears". Sports Reference LLC.. https://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/chi/1949.htm. 
  24. "1950 Chicago Bears". Sports Reference LLC.. https://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/chi/1950.htm. 
  25. "Patriots 27, Saints 6". United Press International. December 5, 1976. p. 13. 
  26. Bedard, Greg A. (December 4, 2011). "Grogan reflects on his record-setting feet". The New York Times Company and BostonGlobe.com. http://bostonglobe.com/sports/2011/12/04/grogan-reflects-his-record-setting-feet/U9xeePy4Z25BSgtfAwtDMI/story.html. 
  27. "Walker, Geri, Motley, Fears Unanimous All-pro Choices". Associated Press. December 28, 1950. 
  28. "Sayers Awarded Game Ball for 2d Time". December 13, 1965. p. 25. 
  29. Davis, Jeff (2006). "Papa Bear: The Life and Legacy of George Halas". McGraw-Hill Professional. p. 240. ISBN 978-0-07-147741-3. 
  30. Motor volume 116, publisher Hearst Corp., 1961, page 44
  31. Pennington. - p.96.
  32. Adams, Val (July 22, 1956). "TV-Radio Notes". 
  33. 33.0 33.1 Davis, Jeff (2007). "Rozelle: Czar of the NFL". McGraw-Hill Professional. p. 133. ISBN 978-0-07-147166-4. https://archive.org/details/rozelleczarofnfl0000davi/page/133. 
  34. Summerall, Pat (2006). "Summerall: On and Off the Air". Thomas Nelson. p. 81. ISBN 978-0-7852-1492-2. https://archive.org/details/summerallonoffai00summ/page/81. 
  35. "Where Are They Now? Heisman Trophy Edition". lostlettermen.com. http://www.lostlettermen.com/where-are-they-now-heisman-trophy-edition/. 
  36. "Johnny Lujack Stats - Pro-Football-Reference.com". https://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/L/LujaJo00.htm. 

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