Nov. 4, 2005
By Craig Chval
As his sophomore football season at Notre Dame wound down, things weren’t going Larry Conjar’s way.
“My dad was driving 560 miles each way to see me play, but I was selling programs outside the Stadium on game day,” recalls Conjar. “One Sunday afternoon, I sat by myself in the top row of the Stadium and asked myself what in the world I was doing.
“And I don’t know what possessed me, but I stood up and looked across the campus and said to myself that tomorrow night was going to be my night,” Conjar continues.
“Tomorrow night” was the weekly Monday night scrimmage between Conjar’s scout team and the freshmen.
On the first play, Irish head coach Ara Parseghian called an off-tackle play. Conjar’s assignment as fullback – block the defensive end. Conjar flattened him.
“Conjar, that’s not bad,” Parseghian said before calling the play three more times in succession. Each time, Conjar steamrolled the defensive end.
After the fourth time, Irish assistant coach Tom Pagna slapped Conjar on the rear and said, “Conjar, it’s about time!”
Conjar won the starting fullback position in 1965 and earned third-team All-America honors in1966. He was selected by Cleveland in the second round of the NFL draft.
Conjar showed similar persistence – with similar results — when a St. Mary’s College freshman running for homecoming queen caught his eye.
“I fell in love with a picture,” he says. “But for a year, I was too afraid even to ask her friends to introduce me.
“Finally, she was on a date with Kenny Ivan, one of my teammates. I knew that if I went up to them, he’d have to introduce me. He did, and I never left her side.”
Larry still carries that photo of Donna after 37 years of marriage. “It’s been the best,” he says.
After his NFL career was cut short due to a near-fatal bout with spinal meningitis, Conjar got into the real estate business. Today, Larry and Donna live in Evanston, Ill., where Larry oversees a family-owned real estate business and they spend plenty of time with their son, Matt, his wife and their four grandchildren.
Conjar sees a great similarity between the character of Irish head coach Charlie Weis and Parseghian — and knows what a difference that can make in the lives of the players.
“The guy made me,” says Conjar of Parseghian. “I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am without him.”