In a somber moment for Notre Dame and football fans alike, Johnny Lujack, the legendary quarterback who brought glory to the Fighting Irish in the 1940s, passed away on Tuesday at the remarkable age of 98. A true icon of the game, Lujack’s legacy will forever be etched in the annals of football history.
Born amidst a world engulfed in turmoil, Lujack’s journey to greatness began during his sophomore year in 1943 when he stepped up to fill the shoes of the revered Heisman winner Angelo Bertelli, who had left the team to serve in the Marine Corps during World War II. Unfazed by the pressure, Lujack led Notre Dame to a championship, the first of three national titles he would secure for the university.
Throughout his illustrious career, Lujack exemplified the indomitable spirit of a true Fighting Irish. Serving in the United States Navy for two years, he demonstrated unwavering dedication and commitment both on and off the field. Such qualities undoubtedly contributed to his status as a unanimous All-American for two consecutive years and ultimately led him to the prestigious Heisman Trophy in 1947.
Perhaps his most memorable moment came in the “Game of the Century,” a high-stakes matchup between Notre Dame and Army in 1946. With the game on the line, Lujack’s tackle of Army’s Heisman-winner Doc Blanchard secured a scoreless tie, showcasing his brilliance and ensuring his place in football folklore.
Beyond football, Lujack’s versatile athletic prowess was on full display during his time at Notre Dame. He excelled in baseball, basketball, and track, proving to be a formidable force in every sport he touched. Such was his talent that even his venture into the NFL saw him lead the league in passing yards and touchdowns in 1949 while playing for the Chicago Bears.
We mourn the loss of @NDFootball alumnus Johnny Lujack and remember the impact the Heisman winner and College Football Hall of Famer left.
We lift our thoughts and prayers for Lujack’s family, friends and loved ones.
— The Fighting Irish (@FightingIrish) July 25, 2023
Despite the numerous accolades, Lujack remained humble and credited timing and fortune for his success. In an interview with UND.com in 1999, he expressed profound gratitude for the opportunities that came his way and the guidance he received from legendary coach Frank Leahy.
Off the field, Lujack continued to contribute to the sport he loved, returning to Notre Dame as an assistant coach under Leahy’s guidance. His passion for football and dedication to teaching the next generation of athletes exemplified his character and further solidified his position as an icon not just for Notre Dame but for football enthusiasts worldwide.
As news of Lujack’s passing spread, heartfelt condolences poured in from across the sporting world. His family, including his daughter, son, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, will carry on his legacy with pride, remembering him not just as a football legend, but as a loving and devoted family man.
Notre Dame has lost a titan, but his impact will resonate for generations to come. As we bid farewell to Johnny Lujack, we cherish the memories of his unparalleled achievements and the inspiration he provided to athletes striving for greatness. The world of football bows its head in reverence, forever grateful for the indelible mark left by the great Johnny Lujack.
In the hallowed halls of Notre Dame, his spirit will forever dwell, and the echoes of his triumphs will resonate through the hearts of future Fighting Irish. Johnny Lujack may have left this world, but his legacy will never fade. Rest in peace, dear legend.