American Football

Johnny Lujack’s Place in Bears History

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WCG’s resident historian talks Johnny Lujack, George Halas, and Chicago Bears lore

Johnny Lujack died on July 25th, 2023 at the age of 98 years old. He was the oldest living Heisman Trophy winner at the time of his passing and left behind a connection to a distant past. George Halas selected Lujack 4th overall in the 1946 NFL Draft, but he returned to Notre Dame to lead the Fighting Irish to two national championships in ‘46 and ‘47, adding to the previous trophy from the 1943 season. In between racking up championships in college, Lujack fought in World War II in the Navy. After his collegiate career finished, he joined the Bears in 1948.

Lujack became the heir apparent to the legendary Sid Luckman, as Halas kept Lujack to make the transition from the Hall of Famer over Bobby Layne. Lujack initially rewarded Halas’s decision making with an excellent 1949 campaign where he was honored by the New York Daily News as the best QB in the league. In 1950, Lujack earned 1st Team All-Pro honors from the Associated Press and earned a second straight Pro Bowl appearance in 1951.

Unfortunately for the Bears, that would prove to be Lujack’s final season as a professional as he pursued other interests including coaching. Was it a nagging injury, a contract dispute with Halas, or a combination thereof? Did Halas’s inability to keep Lujack in navy and orange curse the team to quarterback misery?

To explore where Lujack sits in Bears history, podcast host Jeff Berckes sits down with our resident historian Jack Silverstein on a special episode. See where Lujack ranked in our Top 100 and check out Jeff’s Championship Belt series from that era. Download where you find your podcasts or use the player below to listen.

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