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Notre Dame Heisman Trophy Winners

Seven Notre Dame football players have won the Heisman Trophy, college football’s most coveted award.  Read in-depth bios of all seven Irish Heisman winners including how they got to Notre Dame, their winning seasons, and what they did after winning college football’s most coveted award.

John Huarte

(Original Photo provided by Notre Dame Media Relations)

NOBODY saw this one coming! John Huarte was from California, a prized prospect from an emerging Catholic prep school, Santa Ana Mater Dei, which would later produce Heisman honoree Matt Leinart of the Cardinal and Gold of USC. But Huarte’s talents went unrecognized by Joe Kuharich and Hugh Devore. As a soph in ’62, Huarte escaped the sideline, and Kuharich’s dour gaze, long enough to complete 4 of 8 passes for an un-Heisman foreshadowing 38 yards. When the ’63 season opened, under “interim” Coach Hugh Devore, Huarte was buried behind Dennis Szot, Frank Budka and Sandy Bonvecchio. The Irish faithful would certainly see ...

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Paul Hornung

(Original Photo provided by Notre Dame Media Relations)

Paul Hornung’s path to the Heisman Trophy was filled with intrigue, surprise and adventure, and finished in what is arguably the most controversial Heisman Trophy Award. Hornung was a legendary schoolboy athlete at Flaget High in Louisville. Jim Murray, the iconic LA sportswriter, once described Louisville, the captive of the tobacco and bourbon cartels, as “America’s Bar Rag.” Notwithstanding, Hornung eventually became a member of the High School Hall of Fame. Frank Leahy was in his twilight when Hornung’s recruitment began. Hornung, along with Flaget High teammate Sherrill Sipes, came up on a recruiting visit for the 1952 USC game. But when the ...

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John Lattner

John Lattner - 1953 Heisman Trophy Winner

It seemed that Notre Dame’s Heisman Trophy winners were following a Westward sojourn.  Angelo Bertelli, from Springfield, MA, was the first and next was John Lujack of Connellsville in Western PA. Next was Leon Hart from Turtle Creek, a Pittsburgh suburb and just northwest of Connellsville. The Fighting Irish Heisman caravan then shifted to Oak Park, a near west suburb of Chicago to Fenwick High and John Lattner. Fenwick was run by the Dominicans and was named after a Bishop Fenwick from Cincinnatti. Fenwick, which provided five recruits to Hugh Devore’s masterpiece recruiting class of 1963, became one of the lead tributaries of the Chicago ...

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Leon Hart

(Photo: Notre Dame Media Relations)

Leon Hart was a big player for Notre Dame.  He was actually the BIGGEST Heisman Trophy Winner of all time. Hart was born in Pittsburgh, and was recruited to Notre Dame from Turtle Creek, PA, just Southeast of Pittsburgh.  Hart’s recruiting had some drama. Leahy had assigned the wonderful Moose Krause to recruit Hart and he had been on him like basmati on rice. Hart had not yet visited Notre Dame. The normally sturdy Krause was felled by a horrific, near pneumonic bout with a cold, and could barely move.  His wife was providing cough syrup, chicken soup and tender loving care.  The ...

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Johnny Lujack

Johnny Lujack - Notre Dame

John Lujack was born and raised in Connellsville, Pennsylvania, southeast of Pittsburgh.  Lujack was a four sport athlete at Connellsville, and was an RKG, graduating as both the Valedictorian and Senior Class President of Connellsville ’42. He was a “phenom” on and off the field, and the local gentry, a few months after Pearl Harbor, encouraged him to attend West Point. But young Johnny had spend Saturday Autumn afternoons glued to his radio listening to the exploits of a civilian team, the University of Notre Dame. When Lujack arrived, he was soon the backup to Angelo Bertelli, and in the kind of thing ...

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Angelo Bertelli

Angelo Bertelli - 1943 Heisman Trophy Winner

The Heisman Trophy was first awarded in 1935 by New York’s Downtown Athletic Club as the “Downtown Athletic Club Trophy.” John Heisman, the former coach at Georgia Tech, was the athletic director of the DAC and supervised the award program. After Heisman’s death in 1936, the DAC was renamed the “Heisman Memorial Award Trophy,” conveniently remonickered as the “Heisman Trophy.” It was first awarded to that bellwether of the University of Chicago Maroons, Jay Berwanger, in 1935. Yale players won the next two. In each case one trophy is awarded to the player and one to his school. So the ones you see displayed in ...

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Tim Brown

Tim Brown - Notre Dame Great Receiver

Notre Dame was in a 24 year Heisman drought, its longest since the award was established in 1935. Then Tim Brown ended the drought when he won his Heisman in 1987. Notre Dame’s first 6 winners were Caucasians. Four had attended legendary Catholic High Schools. Neither was true with Tim Brown. But Tim Brown may have been unique in that he might have been influenced by Notre Dame’s Bowl Appearances, which began after the ’69 season, with the ’70 Cotton Bowl. When Notre Dame broke the 45 year self-imposed boycott of the bowls, it did so in Dallas. In the ...

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