March 4, 2008
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Former University of Notre Dame football All-American and College Football Hall of Fame inductee Jerry Groom died late Friday night in Sarasota, Fla. He was 78.
Captain of the 1950 Irish squad, the 6-3, 215-pound Groom played center and linebacker as a three-year starter for Frank Leahy’s Notre Dame teams from 1948 through ’50, helping the Irish claim a national title in ’49. He was a consensus All-America selection as a senior in ’50 – earning first-team recognition from United Press, NEA and The Sporting News and second-team notice from Associated Press.
During Groom’s three letter-winning seasons with the Irish varsity, Notre Dame finished a combined 23-4-1, including final AP rankings of second in ’48 and first in ’49. Among his most memorable moments was a late-game, end-zone interception that helped preserve Notre Dame’s 27-20 win at SMU that ended the ’49 season and cemented Notre Dame’s national championship.
Originally from Des Moines, Iowa, Groom starred in both football and baseball at Dowling High School. He went on from Notre Dame to serve as a team captain in the ’51 East-West Shrine Classic and also participated in the College All-Star Game in Chicago. He was a first-round draft pick (sixth overall selection) of the NFL’s Chicago Cardinals in ’51, played five seasons at center with the Cardinals, and was named to the Pro Bowl in 1954. Groom was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1994.
Following his football career, Groom served in a broadcast position for the Denver Broncos before becoming a vice president with Levi Strauss & Co (he retired in 1986).
A tireless reunion organizer of the Leahy’s Lads (the former Irish who played during the Leahy years), Groom worked hand in hand with teammate Jack Connor to coordinate fundraising both for the Frank Leahy sculpture that stands just outside Notre Dame Stadium and for the Frank Leahy Memorial Scholarship program that has reached a value of more than $1.8 million and has benefited 33 Notre Dame students since 1997 for 82 scholarship awards worth more than $323,000.
In 2006 Groom received the Notre Dame Alumni Association’s Harvey G. Foster Award, which is conferred annually on an alumnus (some of whom are former athletes or involved in athletic endeavors) who has provided distinguished service through civic or University activities.
Born Aug. 15, 1929, Groom is a 1951 University of Notre Dame graduate with a degree in commerce from the College of Business. He is survived by his wife, Kathy, and their four children: Cynthia, David, James and Maureen.
Funeral services will be held at 10:00 a.m. EST Saturday (March 8) at the Incarnation Catholic Church at 2929 Bee Ridge Road in Sarasota.
— ND —