Notre Dame's Fourth Heisman Trophy: Johnny Lattner (1953)

During his Irish career, Johnny Lattner (‘54) earned a reputation as a jack of all trades – running, catching and punting, while also returning punts and kickoffs and intercepting 13 passes as a defensive back. In the 1953 season, the Chicago native rushed for 651 yards and nine touchdowns, while also catching 14 passes for 204 yards. He returned eight kickoffs for 321 yards, including two for touchdowns, and finished the year with four interceptions. Despite not leading the team in any major offensive categories, Lattner earned the Heisman Trophy, beating out Minnesota’s Paul Giel in one of the closest ballots in history. In this ‘Strong and True’ moment, Notre Dame’s fourth Heisman Trophy winner talks about his memorable award-winning season. The accompanying photos are from the University of Notre Dame Archives.

1953 Heisman Trophy results
1. John Lattner, Notre Dame (1850)
2. Paul Giel, Minnesota (1794)
3. Paul Cameron, UCLA (444)
4. Bernie Faloney, Maryland (258)
5. Bob Garrett, Stanford (231)
6. Alan Ameche, Wisconsin (211)
7. J.C. Caroline, Illinois (193)
8. J.D. Roberts, Oklahoma (108)
9. Lamar McHan, Arkansas (78)

Time cover

Irish right halfback Johnny Lattner appeared on the cover of Time on Nov. 9, 1953.

Lattner run

Lattner outruns a diving defender during Notre Dame’s game against USC in 1953. He scored four touchdowns against the Trojans.

Lattner headshot

The Chicago native was a consensus All-American as both a junior and senior on offense and defense.

Lattner Notre Dame Stadium

Lattner runs against Pittsburgh at Notre Dame Stadium in 1953. The Irish won, 23-14.

Lattner diving

Lattner in a posed action shot diving at Notre Dame Stadium.

Lattner Heisman pose

Striking the pose.

Lattner running

Johnny Lattner runs against USC in 1952.

Lattner action pose

Lattner scored nine touchdowns in the 1953 season, and won the Heisman in one of the closest votes ever.

three Heisman winners

Three of Notre Dame’s first four Heisman Trophy winners – Johnny Lujack (1947), Leon Hart (1949) and Johnny Lattner (1953) at a Merrill Lynch presentation in 1993.

Lattner Fantasy Camp

Lattner returned to campus as a guest speaker at the 2012 Notre Dame Football Fantasy Camp. Here he poses with his Heisman Trophy in the lobby of the Guglielmino Athletics Complex.