(Between now and the autumn return of football, Coach’s Corner will be presenting from time to time favorite entries from previous seasons. I hope you enjoy them, again. Coach Reese.)
Notre Dame quarterback Johnny Lujack won the Heisman in 1947 when he led the Fighting Irish to the national championship. I first heard of the great Lujack in 1943 when he was a freshman at Notre Dame, subbing for a previous Heisman winner, Angelo Bertelli, who had been called to active duty during World War II.
I met him in the fall of 1961 when he was a top-flight NFL announcer for CBS, covering New York Giant football games and I, in the twilight of a mediocre career, was laboring for the Mount Vernon Eagles, a semi-pro team in neighboring Westchester County, New York.
I was asked to make a commercial with Lujack for Falstaff beer. He had been hired by a New York advertising agency and needed a modeling dummy to interact with him.
Teaching high school English and making a hundred-and-twenty-five a week, I jumped, nay leaped, at the opportunity to pocket a quick three-hundred bucks for a day’s work.
However, I was somewhat limited in modeling experience, my fifteen minutes of fame coming while displaying a nice herringbone sport coat with leather elbow patches during a fashion show in the student union when I was attending the University of Minnesota in the late ’50s. I recall I was allowed to keep the coat, priced at $26. Today, the NCAA would be peeking through the windows ready to slap me with a three-game suspension for such an egregious act.
My assignment was holding the ball for Lujack kicking a field goal, or throwing him the ball so he could catch it, or just standing there, mannequin-like, as he explained the different functions of the equipment I was wearing. That era’s “Johnny Football” would then comment on each of the tasks.
After taping a segment, we would retreat to a trailer to look at the video tape of what we had just done. Corrections were made if necessary and we would go out and do it again until we got it right.
Each time we came back to the trailer, I noticed this technician in front of one of the monitors playing back what we had just done so we could all look at it and make adjustments. Standing there with Lujack, I told the techie that I had played in college and how we looked at films of our games the day after we played to see how we did.
I said, “since you can replay what we are doing here so quickly, is there any way you could do that for the people watching the games on television so they could see why a play was or wasn’t successful? I think fans would really like that.” Lujack nodded in assent.
The technician said to me, “You know, kid, that’s not a bad idea!”
The very next year, in the fall of 1962, CBS introduced instant replay to football fans for the first time.
Just do the math, fans, just do the math!