Knute Rockne, Catholic convert, on the 80th anniversary of his death

If Rockne was merely the greatest coach who ever lived (his 13-season record of 105 wins, 12 loses and 5 ties, still remains the best ever in college football) his death at forty-three would not have brought such grief, nor would his legend have been so lasting. Son of Norwegian immigrants, Rock came to America at the age of five after his father’s two-wheel carry-all buggy won an award at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. Knute learned the game of football in the rough and tumble Windy City neighborhood of Logan Square, under the watchful eye of (I’m not kidding!) “an Irish copper named O’Goole.” Knute’s dad Lars wasn’t keen on college, so Rockne earned his way to Notre Dame (then cheaper than the University of Illinois!) by working in the mail room for five years before entering Our Lady’s University, “the lone Norse Protestant invader of a Catholic stronghold,” a balding broken-nosed freshman, at the age of twenty-two.

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