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Johnny Lujack

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Johnny Lujack
refer to caption
Lujack c. 1950
No. 32
Personal information
Born:(1925-01-04)January 4, 1925
Connellsville, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died:July 25, 2023(2023-07-25) (aged 98)
Naples, Florida, U.S.
Height:6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)
Weight:186 lb (84 kg)
Career information
High school:Connellsville
College:Notre Dame (1943; 1946–1947)
NFL draft:1946 / Round: 1 / Pick: 4
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Completion percentage:50%
Passing yards:6,295
Passer rating:65.3
Rushing yards:742
Rushing touchdowns:21
Interception yards:190
Player stats at PFR

John Christopher Lujack Jr.[1] (/ˈlæk/;[2] January 4, 1925 – July 25, 2023) was an American football quarterback and safety who played for the Chicago Bears of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, where he won the Heisman Trophy in 1947.

Early life and college career[edit]

Lujack was born to Alice and John Luczak,[3] in 1925 in Connellsville, Pennsylvania,[4] the youngest of four sons and fifth child in a family of six children.[4] 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.[3][5][6][4][7] His father worked for the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad for thirty years as a boilermaker.[7]

Lujack attended Connellsville High School and played for the school's football team from 1939 to 1941. He was also the senior class president and valedictorian.[8] In high school, he lettered in four sports; baseball, football, basketball, and track.[3][9]

Lujack's 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.[10]

People in Connellsville had wanted Lujack 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 football from listening to their radio broadcasts, had his heart set on playing in South Bend.[11][12] He was the first Connellsville High School student to receive an appointment to Army.[3]

Lujack attended the University of 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, during which 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.[11][12]

When Lujack returned from the Atlantic (ETO) duty, he appeared on the cover of the September 29, 1947, issue of LIFE.[13] He led the 1947 Fighting Irish to a 9–0 record for his senior year, during which he completed 61 passes on 109 attempts for 777 yards and rushed for 139 yards on 12 carries, and won the Heisman Trophy.[10] As he had in high school, Lujack 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.[11] As a track and field athlete, he competed in the high jump and javelin throw, at times dashing over to the track to compete between innings of baseball games that he was playing in.[14] He was a two-time unanimous All-American (1946 and 1947) and led Notre Dame to three national championships (1943, 1946, and 1947).[15][16] In addition to winning the Heisman, Lujack was named the Associated Press Athlete of the Year.[12]

Professional career[edit]

Lujack was paid USD$17,000 for his 1948 rookie season with the Bears and $20,000 for his fourth and final season.[10] In his rookie season he played defensive back and kicker, during which he had eight interceptions for 131 yards and kicked 44 out of 46 extra points.[10][17]

In the summer of 1949, Lujack 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.[18] The show was broadcast from the studios of WGN in Chicago over the Mutual Broadcasting System (MBS) and ran for 13 weeks.[19]

Lujack on a 1948 Bowman football card

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.[20][21] The record was broken later by Norm Van Brocklin. He was the last Bears quarterback to throw at least five touchdown passes in a game until Mitchell Trubisky threw six against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2018.[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 Patriots' 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, three (out of five) field-goals, and 34 (out of 35) extra points.[27] That record was surpassed by Gale Sayers in 1965 with 132 total points.[28]

Post-playing career[edit]

After four years with the Bears, Lujack 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.[8][10] 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.[8][30] He purchased his father-in-law's dealership interest in 1988.[31] Sometime in late 2006, the dealership was sold by his former son-in-law to Smart Automotive.[32]

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.[33][34][35] 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.[35][36] He also worked with Jim McKay on CBS doing college football and on ABC college football telecasts in the late 1960s.[37]

On June 8, 1978, Lujack was inducted into the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame.[38]

In 2005, Lujack donated $50,000 to Connellsville High School toward a new field house for the football stadium.[8] It was later named Johnny Lujack Field House.[8] 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.[12]

Personal life[edit]

His wife, the former Patricia Ann "Pat" Schierbrock (February 22, 1927 — August 2, 2022), was the daughter of Josephine (née Wilson) and Frank H. Schierbrock.[39] Lujack and Schierbrock were married in Davenport, Iowa at the Sacred Heart Cathedral on June 26, 1948.[15][40] They had three children:[33] Mary, Jeff, and Carol (1954–2002).[41]

Lujack was distantly related to NFL player Ben Skowronek and Olympic gymnast Courtney Kupets. NFL quarterback Trent Green married into the family.[42]

Lujack died at a hospice in Naples, Florida, on July 25, 2023, at age 98.[1][43]

Career statistics[edit]

Lujack, circa 1947

College statistics[edit]

Season Team Cmp Att Pct Passing Yds Passing TD Int Rtg Rushing Yds Rushing Avg
1943 Notre Dame 34 71 47.9 525 4 8 106.1 191 4.2
1946 Notre Dame 49 100 49.0 778 6 8 114.9 108 4.7
1947 Notre Dame 61 109 56.0 777 9 8 128.4 139 11.6

Professional statistics[edit]

Year Team GP GS Record Att Cmp Yds TD Int Lng
1948 CHI 9 3 66 36 611 6 3 64
1949 CHI 12 7 312 162 2,658 23 22 81
1950 CHI 12 12 9–3 254 121 1,731 4 21 70
1951 CHI 12 6 4–2 176 85 1,295 8 8 78
Career[44] 45 28 13–5 808 404 6,295 41 54 81


  1. ^ a b Goldstein, Richard (July 25, 2023). "Johnny Lujack, a Star Quarterback at Notre Dame, Dies at 98". The New York Times. Retrieved July 26, 2023.
  2. ^ "The Adventures of Johnny Lujack". YouTube. Retrieved July 27, 2023.
  3. ^ a b c d 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
  4. ^ a b c Current Biography Yearbook: Volumes 1-31, H.W. Wilson Company, 1948, p. 404
  5. ^ Luczak. – Connellsville, Fayette, Pennsylvania. – 1930 United States Census. – United States Census Bureau.
  6. ^ Johnson, Rafer (2009), Great Athletes, Salem Press, p. 278, ISBN 978-1-58765-473-2
  7. ^ a b Silverman, Al (1971), The Best of Sport, 1946–1971, Viking Press, p. 22
  8. ^ a b c d e Kroeger, Judy (September 20, 2005), "Football great donates $50,000 for new field house", Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, The Daily Courier (Connellsville)
  9. ^ "Life's Cover", LIFE, p. 29, September 29, 1947
  10. ^ a b c d e White, Mike (September 14, 1994), "Johnny Marching Home for Connellsville Honor", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, p. D-1,D-5
  11. ^ a b c Pennington, Bill (2004), The Heisman: Great American Stories of the Men who Won, HarperCollins, pp. 92, 94, ISBN 978-0-06-055471-2
  12. ^ a b c d Dvorchak, Robert (July 14, 2009), "Lujack heads inaugural class", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
  13. ^ "Life's Cover", LIFE, Time, Inc., p. (front cover), September 29, 1947, ISSN 0024-3019
  14. ^ "Appreciation: Unassuming Notre Dame legend Johnny Lujack learned he won the Heisman in the Coliseum". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 19, 2024.
  15. ^ a b "Milestones", TIME, July 5, 1948
  16. ^ Marder, Keith; Mark Spellen; Jim Donovan (2001), The Notre Dame Football Encyclopedia, p. 128
  17. ^ "Johnny Lujack", Pro-Football-Reference.com, Sports Reference LLC.
  18. ^ "'Lujack' Replaces 'Jack Armstrong'", Billboard, June 4, 1949
  19. ^ Federal Communications Commission reports, vol. 32, Federal Communications Commission (printed by United States Government Printing Office), 1962, p. 1003
  20. ^ Warren, Harry (December 12, 1949), "Lujack Sets Mark in 52–21 Rout of Cards", Chicago Tribune, p. C1
  21. ^ "Chicago Cardinals 21 at Chicago Bears 52", Pro-Football-Reference.com, Sports Reference LLC., December 11, 1949
  22. ^ "Bears' Trubisky breaks out with six TD passes". September 30, 2018.
  23. ^ "1949 Chicago Bears", Pro-Football-Reference.com, Sports Reference LLC.
  24. ^ "1950 Chicago Bears", Pro-Football-Reference.com, Sports Reference LLC.
  25. ^ "Patriots 27, Saints 6", Telegraph Herald, United Press International, p. 13, December 5, 1976
  26. ^ Bedard, Greg A. (December 4, 2011), "Grogan reflects on his record-setting feet", The Boston Globe, The New York Times Company and BostonGlobe.com
  27. ^ "Walker, Geri, Motley, Fears Unanimous All-pro Choices", The New London Evening Day, Associated Press, December 28, 1950
  28. ^ "Sayers Awarded Game Ball for 2d Time", The Boston Globe, p. 25, December 13, 1965
  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. ^ "About Us | Smart Automotive". Archived from the original on September 29, 2020.
  33. ^ a b Markoe. – p.74.
  34. ^ Adams, Val (July 22, 1956), "TV-Radio Notes", The New York Times
  35. ^ a b Davis, Jeff (2007), Rozelle: Czar of the NFL, McGraw-Hill Professional, p. 133, ISBN 978-0-07-147166-4
  36. ^ Summerall, Pat (2006), Summerall: On and Off the Air, Thomas Nelson, p. 81, ISBN 978-0-7852-1492-2
  37. ^ Heisler, John (September 17, 2017). "Heisman Anniversaries: Celebrating John Lujack and Tim Brown". University of Notre Dame.
  38. ^ "Johnny Lujack". National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame.
  39. ^ Curtis, Georgina Pell; Elder, Benedict (eds.), The American Catholic Who's Who, vol. 14, Romig, Walter, p. 410
  40. ^ "Miss Schierbrock and Lujack Married In Davenport Church", Chicago Daily Tribune, p. A3, June 27, 1948
  41. ^ quad cities times May 30, 2002
  42. ^ "For Ben Skowronek, it's all about the blue (and gold) genes". Chicago Sun-Times. September 12, 2020.
  43. ^ "Johnny Lujack, 1947 Heisman winner who led Notre Dame to 3 national titles, dies at the age of 98". AP News. July 25, 2023. Retrieved July 25, 2023.
  44. ^ "Johnny Lujack Stats - Pro-Football-Reference.com". Pro-Football-Reference.com.

External links[edit]