March 31, 2003
Former Notre Dame football great George Connor – a two-time consensus All-American tackle and 1946 recipient of the Outland Trophy – died today at the age of 78. Details of his death, including memorial and funeral information, will be forthcoming.
Connor enjoyed arguably the most combined success on the college and professional level of any player in Notre Dame’s storied history (he was a Hall of Fame inductee on both levels), after continuing as a two-way star and five-time all-NFL selection with his hometown Chicago Bears.
Notre Dame fans recently had the chance to pay tribute to Connor during the 2000 season opener versus Texas A&M. A special ceremony that day included Connor being presented with an Outland Trophy – emblematic of the nation’s top interior lineman – in recognition of an award that he had received 54 years earlier. Permanent trophies were not presented to the Outland winners until 1989, with a series of trophy presentations to former winners then beginning in 1999.
Connor – who earned All-America honors at Holy Cross before transferring to Notre Dame – was a two-year starter at left tackle and the leader of a dominating group of Notre Dame offensive linemen in the late 1940s. The seven linemen on the 1947 team all earned All-America honors at some time in their careers while also producing two Outland winners (Connor and 1948 recipient Bill Fischer) and 1949 Heisman Trophy winner Leon Hart.
A 1963 inductee into the College Football Hall of Fame, Connor helped Notre Dame post undefeated national championship seasons in 1946 (8-0-1) and 1947 (9-0-0), the start of a four-year span that many recognize as one of the most dominating stretches in college football history.
“We had good passers on those teams but we only threw the ball 10-12 times a game,” said Connor, during a 2000 interview prior to the Outland Trophy ceremony.
“As an offensive line, we just dominated yards and the clock. Teams were intimidated before the game even began.”
Connor tied Hart as the leading vote-getter in a 1962 media poll that selected the top players in Notre Dame history. Sports Illustrated’s college football “team of the century” included Connor as one of three offensive tackles on the 84-player list and he was voted No. 48 on the collegefootballnews.com Top-100 list of the nation’s all-time players.
His success continued on the professional level, during an eight-year career with the Chicago Bears (after being a New York Giants first-round pick). A five-time all-NFL selection who continued to excel on both sides of the ball, Connor was considered one of pro football’s first linebackers who combined size and mobility while his iron-man endurance saw him on the field for nearly every play (including special teams).
The 6-3, 240-pound linebacker went on to earn 1975 induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame – he is the only player ever presented for induction by legendary coach George Halas – and he remains one of just eight Outland winners to enter the pro hall of fame, with the others including Notre Dame’s third recipient Ross Browner (’76), plus Jim Parker (Ohio State, ’56), Merlin Olsen (Utah State, ’61), Bobby Bell (Minnesota, ’82), Randy White (Maryland, ’74), Lee Roy Selmon (Oklahoma, ’75) and Ron Yary (USC, ’67).
Connor – who starred as a prep at De La Salle High School – had remained active in a corrugated box business that he began during his playing days with the Bears and he also had worked with Rev. John Smythe – a former Notre Dame All-America basketball player – in supporting the Maryville Orphanage in Chicago.