July 10, 2011

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Pete Duranko, an All-America defensive lineman on the University of Notre Dame’s 1966 national championship football team, died Friday afternoon at Windber Hospice in Windber, Pa., after a decade-long long battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). He was 67.

Originally from Johnston, Pa., the 6-2, 235-pound Duranko played as an Irish backup fullback in 1963 – gaining 93 yards on 26 attempts. He started the ’64 season at linebacker for the Irish, making an interception in the opener at Wisconsin – but he missed the rest of the season due to an injury suffered against the Badgers.

After moving to defensive left tackle in ’65, Duranko finished second on the squad in tackles with 95 (behind only Jim Lynch’s 108), including 14 versus North Carolina. Then, in ’66 he accounted for 73 tackles, recovered one fumble and broke up one pass.

Duranko played a key role on the ’66 championship defense that ranked second nationally in scoring defense (3.8 points per game), fourth in total defense (187.6 yards per game and the best Notre Dame defensive average since 1947) and ninth in rushing defense (79.3 yards per game). The ’66 Irish squad shut out six of its 10 opponents and allowed only five touchdowns all season long.

As a senior in 1966, Duranko received first-team All-America honors from United Press International and the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), along with second-team recognition from The Sporting News and third-team honors from the Associated Press.

Following his senior campaign, Duranko played in the 1967 College All-Star Game in Chicago.

Born Dec. 14, 1943, Duranko was a fourth-round selection (61st pick overall) by the Cleveland Browns in the 1966 NFL Draft. He was a second-round pick by Denver in the ’66 AFL Draft. Duranko played defensive end and linebacker for Denver from 1967-70 (AFL) and 1972-74 (NFL).

After graduating from Notre Dame, Duranko went on to earn a Master’s degree from St. Francis College, Pa. He became a steel company executive after his playing days.

A funeral mass will be held at 10 a.m. EDT, on Wednesday (July 13) at St. Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church, 411 Power Street, Johnstown, PA 15905 (telephone 814-535-4132).

— ND —