Heisman winner Johnny Lattner dies at 83

By The Sports Xchange

College football legend Johnny Lattner, the 1953 Heisman Trophy winner, died Friday night at age 83.

Lattner was a two-time All-American at Notre Dame and served as a running back, defensive back, punter and kick returner.


The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Lattner was battling lung cancer.

His death was confirmed by Notre Dame and the school held a moment of silence for him before Saturday's men's basketball game against Louisville.

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Lattner helped Notre Dame to a 9-0-1 record in 1953 and edged Paul Giel of Minnesota in the Heisman balloting, becoming the only Chicago native to receive the award. He won the coveted award despite not leading the Fighting Irish in any statistical category.

Winning the Heisman in the 1950s didn't come with the hype that the award prompts in the current era.

"I don't even remember what day of the week it was, but I was told to be in my dorm room in case the call came," Lattner told Notre Dame's website recently.

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"At 4 p.m., Moose Krause, our athletic director, called the pay phone at the end of the fourth-floor hallway at Alumni Hall to tell me I won."


Lattner rushed for 651 yards on 134 carries and had 14 receptions for 204 yards that season, and averaged 41.4 yards and scored two touchdowns on eight kickoff returns.

Lattner won the Maxwell Award in both 1952 and 1953. He rushed for 732 yards and had 17 receptions for 252 yards in 1952.

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He finished his three-season college career with 3,095 all-purpose yards -- a school record that held up until 1979 -- and 13 interceptions, which ranks third in school history.

"We just didn't have specialists in one-platoon football," Lattner said. "It was a challenging type game because you had to be mentally and physically prepared to play 60 minutes. You had to spread your talent all over the field."

Lattner was inducted into the College Hall of Fame in 1979.

Lattner was the seventh overall selection by the Pittsburgh Steelers and played one NFL season. He rushed for 237 yards and five touchdowns and caught 25 passes for 305 yards and two touchdowns in 1954.

Lattner entered the Air Force for a two-year stint and sustained a severe knee injury in a military football game that prevented him from continuing his NFL career.


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