There was speculation about how Notre Dame would have done against a pro team. "It's too bad football can't have a world series, with the winner of the two major professional leagues meeting for the right to tackle Notre Dame for the championship," The Newspaper Enterprise Association's lead sportswriter, Harry Grayson, wrote. "Notre Dame, in this observer's opinion, would beat the best of the pro teams."
The next summer 14 Irish players made the trip to Chicago for the College All-Star Game against the NFL champion Cardinals. The collegians were coached by Leahy. Art Statuto, the fifth-team Notre Dame center, with 10 minutes of playing time in '47, made the squad. So did five Irish backs and four tackles. What the hell, the Notre Dame reserves were better than other people's first teams. Someone asked Ziggy Czarobski what was the toughest team he had faced. "The Notre Dame second unit," he said, for once being serious. The All-Stars lost to the Cardinals 28-0.
Many of the '47 Irish players drifted off to pro football. Lujack, the Heisman winner, signed what was then a hefty contract as the Bears' No. 1 draft choice: four years at $17,000, $18,000, $20,000 and $20,000, plus a $5,000 bonus and an endorsement deal with Wilson Sporting Goods. "I found out later," he says, "that [Bears owner and coach] George Halas had paid only $2,000 of the bonus. The rest was an advance on my Wilson royalties. Halas had tricked me. Fifteen years ago I was approached to contribute to the Halas Hall Foundation. I said, 'I already contributed $3,000.' "
After Hart finished his eight-year career with the Lions, he became active in the NFL Alumni association. He has maintained a strong interest in football at all levels. "Notre Dame would have beaten any pro team," he says. "The talent at that time was all in college.
"What is football now? It's push-pull on the line and an aerial show. An athletic contest consists of three things: effort, stamina and ability. The substitution rules have canceled the element of stamina. Effort? Well, everyone knows he's playing for big bucks, and he's only one play away from oblivion, so that erodes the element of effort. All that's left is ability, and what you see, along with it, are gloves and towels and low-cut shoes, everybody trying to look good.
"Blocking techniques have almost vanished," Hart continues. "I produced a film for the Notre Dame National Monogram Club, The Golden Age of Notre Dame Football, and it's wonderful to see the way the game was played. The precise timing of the blocking, the way the holes opened up. It isn't just running to daylight, running for some seam, behind a whole lot of pushing and shoving. It was beautiful football. The kind of football Frank Leahy taught."
Leahy died in 1973, at age 64. In 11 seasons at Notre Dame he produced six unbeaten teams and four national champions. His '46 and '47 teams were the best, though, and who can argue that they weren't the best of all time?