Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2023

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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IRISH ECHOES JIM LEFEBVRE 64 PRESEASON 2023 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED J ohnny Lujack had a special memory of his childhood in Connellsville, Pa. On fall Saturday afternoons when he was a lad, he would be sprawled out on the living room floor, amidst the legs of the Philco radio set, on which Notre Dame football was playing. Lujack, who died July 25 at age 98, was 10 years old when he listened to Ted Husing describe Notre Dame's thrilling comeback for an 18-13 victory at Ohio State in the "Game of the Century" on Nov. 2, 1935. The games, the players, the stadiums. It all sounded magical. And he wanted to be there. At Connellsville High, Lujack devel- oped into a four-sport athlete, excel- ling in football, baseball, basketball and track and field. He was senior class president and valedictorian, and people around town thought he'd be a perfect candidate for the United States Military Academy at West Point. They petitioned their local congressman for an appointment for Lujack. There was just one thing — he had his heart set on attending Notre Dame. But as strong as his record was, he wasn't sure about getting the attention of the staff in South Bend. These were the days before recruiting services, highlight films or anything of the sort. That's when a family friend in the au- tomobile business stood up and said, "I'll drive you to Notre Dame." He made the 425-mile trek with the teenaged Lujack in tow. It was, in essence, an introduction and a tryout in front of head coach Frank Leahy and the Irish coaches. They liked what they saw and made Lujack a scholarship offer. He didn't disappoint. As a sophomore in 1943, Lujack was the backup quarterback behind "The Springfield Rifle," Angelo Bertelli, who led the Fighting Irish to a 6-0 start before being activated by the Marine Corps and sent to boot camp at Par- ris Island, S.C. Lujack was thrust into the lineup, his first start coming against third-ranked Army in the teams' annual battle at Yankee Stadium. With Lujack mixing rushes with passes like a seasoned expert, the Irish rolled up 413 total yards and romped, 26-0. "Johnny was the kind of quarterback who called runs when passes were ex- pected and passed on fourth down," said one description. "He kept the defense in a state of confusion and his teammates on their toes. "What impressed the coaches as much as his offensive ability was John- ny's tackling. He was fierce and deadly, and he never flinched." The next two weeks, Lujack and the Irish downed No. 8 Northwest- ern (24-6) and No. 2 Iowa Pre-Flight (14-13). Despite a loss to Great Lakes Naval in the final game, the Irish were named national champs. Lujack spent the next two foot- ball seasons serving as an officer in the U.S. Navy, helping to patrol the English Channel in search of German submarines. When he returned in 1946, he was joined at Notre Dame by a host of World War II veterans, a juggernaut that ham- mered the opposition (271-24) on the season. The Irish ranked first nationally in total offense (441.3 yards per game), rushing offense (340.1 yards a contest) and total defense (141.7 yards allowed per outing). Another "Game of the Century," against No. 1 Army at Yankee Stadium, loomed large, the Black Knights featur- ing their double Heisman Trophy back- field of Glenn Davis and Doc Blanchard. In 1947, Lujack — a quarterback and defensive back — led Notre Dame to a 9-0 record, was named a consensus All-American for the second straight season and won the Heisman Trophy. FILE PHOTO Johnny Lujack Found His Way To His Dream School And Became A Legend

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