Thursday, November 1, 2012

“Here’s Johnny”

At the conclusion of our last road trip in September I had completed playing golf in 49-states during the first 9-months of 2012. My original goal to play all 50 states was looking quite easy - - - in spite of what some of you doubting Thomas’s may have been thinking earlier in the year. With only the state of Florida left to play I am encountering a slight delay in competing my goal. A round of golf is taking 2nd priority behind a visit to Disneyland with the grandkids during December. This will be my last post until I play Florida at the end of the year. 

The month of October has flown by; it has taken me a long time to get my blog updated from the trip to Colorado & New Mexico. Julie & I did take a 10-day break to visit the grandkids in San Francisco. The kids grow up so fast it is hard to let too much time slip by without a visit.

 Layla in the pumpkin patch

 Max riding the "Pumpkin Express"

 Max really enjoys watering the plants in the back yard

 Little Miss Blue Eyes

Watching cartoons on TV

I have also been taking advantage of great weather to play as much golf as possible before we start to see falling snow. My home course, Crow Valley Golf Club, does not get much play in the fall after the start of football season, falling temperatures, and departure of the snowbirds (retirees heading south to their winter homes in Florida). Yesterday I played with 3 other members; our group accounted for 80% of the rounds played on the course for the entire day. Today the course was nearly twice as busy with the number of rounds getting into double digits. Both days the temperature was in the low 50‘s, and on both days we were accompanied by a renown member of the club - Johnny Lujack. He declined an invitation to join us, preferring instead to follow us around the course as he enjoyed smoking his cigar. We enjoyed his jokes and putting critiques. 

If you Googled Johnny’s name you would find out that he is the oldest living Heisman trophy winner. He led the 1947 Fighting Irish to 9-0 record in his senior year, where he completed 61 passes on a 109 attempts for 777 yards and also ran 139 yards on 12 carries. As he had in high school, he once again received varsity letters (called "monograms") in four sports (baseball, football, basketball, and track) while at Notre Dame, becoming the third person to do so. He was a two-time All-American (1946 & 1947) and led Notre Dame to three national championships (1943, '46 and '47). In addition to winning the Heisman, he was named Associated Press Athlete of the Year.

John began his professional football career with the Chicago Bears in 1948. In his rookie season he played defensive back where he had 8 interceptions for 131 yards and kicked 44 out of 46 extra points. 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. That record was broken at the beginning of the 1951 season by Norm Van Brocklin when he threw for 554 yards in a game between the Los Angeles Rams and New York Yanks, on September 28, 1951, a record that still stands after over 60 years.

During the 1950 Chicago Bears season Lujack set an NFL record for most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback at 11. This record was tied by Tobin Rote with the Green Bay Packers in 1956, and broken by the New England Patriot's Steve Grogan in 1976.  Lujack, named to the 1950 All-Pro First Team, also set a Bears record for 109 total points in a season with 11 touchdowns, 3 (out of 5) field-goals, and 34 (out of 35) extra points. That record was surpassed by Gale Sayers in 1965 with 123 total points.
After four years with the Bears he returned to Notre Dame as an assistant coach, for 1952 and 1953, to repay Frank Leahy as a debt of gratitude for giving him a scholarship to Notre Dame. In 1954 he went into the car dealership business with his father-in-law, at Lujack Schierbrock Chevrolet Company of Davenport, Iowa. He sold his dealership interest to his son-in-law in 1988.

John served as a color commentator, opposite play-by-play man Chris Schenkel for the New York Giants on CBS NFL telecasts for a number of years in the late 1950s and early 1960s. But, in 1962 when Ford signed on as a major sponsor, and they learned that Lujack was a Chevrolet dealer, he was replaced by Pat Summerall. He also worked with Jim McKay on CBS doing college football and on ABC college football telecasts in the late 1960s.

John spends his winters in Indian Wells, California where he plays golf with his good friend Peter Murphy. Peter will help John celebrate his 88th birthday this upcoming January 4th. 

As we played our round of golf, John told me several times that he was having a terrible golf season. I found that hard to believe, having witnessed him win the “Closest to the Pin” award in the club’s 4th of July tournament after hitting his ball with 3’ on the 174-yard par 3 hole #11. Most amateur golfers strive to achieve two goals during their lifetime of play: a hole-in-one and a round where their score is equal to their age (or lower!). John has been successful in hitting a hole-in-one 7 times and has shot his age on the golf course 194 times! We would all like to be playing golf that well at his age!

 The Monday Group: Mark Bawden (Genesis Health System), Johnny Lujack, Mike Stopulos (Butler Insurance) and Jim Payne (retired - John Deere) 

The Tuesday Group: Kevin Karlix (John Deere), Dave Emrick (retired - Deloitte), Johnny Lujack, Jim Payne (retired - John Deere), and Mark Bawden (Genesis Health System)

John showed up every day this week to follow our group around the golf course. He never did accept our invitation to play, stating that his game wasn't any good. In addition to his accomplishments in golf mentioned above, it turns out that he was the men's club champion twice. When we asked if he ever had any gold lessons he replied that he once asked for a lesson once from the club's first head professional - - - and Bob Fry stated that "giving him a lesson would be like pouring perfume on a pig." 

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