Photo courtesy: Notre Dame Athletics
Photo courtesy: Notre Dame Athletics

Former All-Pro Bears QB Johnny Lujack passes away

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NOTRE DAME, Ind. (July 25, 2023) — University of Notre Dame football legend Johnny Lujack passed away Tuesday in Naples, Florida, at the age of 98. A Heisman Trophy winner, College Football Hall of Famer and two-time NFL Pro Bowler, Lujack built a legacy in college football, the National Football League and most notably, at Notre Dame.

Lujack was a two-time unanimous All-American in football at Notre Dame and was a monogram winner in four sports (only the third Irish player to do so). He led the Irish to three National Championships, and in 1947, he took home the Heisman and was selected Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press.

A native of Connellsville, Pennsylvania, Lujack took over at quarterback and helped lead the Irish to a national championship in 1943, replacing Angelo Bertelli, who was called into service by the Marine Corps.

After spending nearly three years in the Navy, Lujack returned to Notre Dame for the 1946 season. Over the final two years of his college career, Lujack earned unanimous All-American honors and the Fighting Irish did not lose a single game. His best season came in 1947, when he completed 61-of-109 passes for 777 yards and nine touchdowns, ran for 139 yards and one touchdown on 12 carries, as he earned the coveted Heisman Trophy. Widely known for his offensive prowess, Lujack is most fondly remembered by Irish fans for a game-saving tackle he made against Army in preserving Notre Dame’s undefeated season in 1946.

Lujack was taken with the fourth overall pick of the 1948 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. In his rookie season with the Bears, he played defensive back, producing eight interceptions for 131 yards, and also made 46-of-48 PATs.

Lujack returned to offense in 1949, leading the Bears to a 52-21 win over their hometown rivals, the Chicago Cardinals. In that game Lujack threw six touchdown passes and set a then-NFL record with 468 passing yards.

During the 1950 season, Lujack set a then-NFL record with 11 rushing touchdowns by a quarterback. He was named to the 1950 All-Pro First Team, also setting a then-Bears record with 109 total points in a season with 11 touchdowns, three field goals and 34 extra points.

After four years with the Chicago Bears, including two Pro Bowls, Lujack returned to Notre Dame to work as an assistant coach for two seasons.

Lujack is survived by his wife of 74 years, Patricia Ann “Pat,” and their children, Mary and Jeff. The couple’s daughter, Carol, passed away in 2002.

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