Johnny Lattner (John Joseph Lattner)

Johnny Lattner

Johnny Lattner starred in both football and basketball at Fenwick High School where he graduated in 1950. Fenwick, along with other Chicago-area Catholic schools, was a breeding ground for Notre Dame and Big Ten football programs, and Lattner held offers from top college football programs across the country. He initially considered the University of Michigan because head coach Bennie Oosterbaan ran the single wing offense, a scheme that fit Lattner well at Fenwick. Lattner eventually chose Notre Dame, which offered a Catholic education and the highest level of competition. Johnny Lattner played halfback for the University of Notre Dame under head coach Frank Leahy from 1950 to 1953. He won the Heisman Trophy in 1953, and won the Maxwell Award twice, in 1952 and 1953. In 1953, the Irish went 9–0–1, finishing second to Maryland in the final Associated Press poll. Lattner rushed for 651 yards (averaging 4.9 yards per carry) and scored nine touchdowns, caught 14 passes for 204 yards, had four interceptions and tallied two touchdowns on only 10 kickoff returns. Lattner appeared on the cover of Time Magazine on November 9, 1953 with the caption “a bread and butter ball carrier”, a phrase bestowed upon Lattner by Leahy.

In 1954, Johnny Lattner was drafted in the first round by the Pittsburgh Steelers, but played with them for only one season before entering the United States Air Force for two years. There, during a football game, he suffered a severe knee injury that prevented him from ever playing professional football again. Lattner’s single season in Pittsburgh was a success, as he totaled over 1,000 all purpose yards on offense and special teams. As a result, he was named to the NFL 1954 Pro Bowl as a kick and punt returner. Johnny Lattner coached for a period in the late 1950s, at St. Joseph’s High School in Kenosha, Wisconsin and the University of Denver. His coaching career ended in 1961 when Denver cut its football program. Johnny Lattner was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1979. Johnny Lattner was 83 when he died from mesothelioma in his Melrose Park, Illinois home on February 12, 2016.

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  • October, 24, 1932
  • USA
  • Chicago, Illinois


  • February, 12, 2016
  • USA
  • Melrose Park, Illinois

Cause of Death

  • mesothelioma

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