By late Wednesday afternoon, Johnny Lujack was sharing his wit with nurses and family members at the Mayo Clinic following successful surgery.
“It’s been a good day and our entire family appreciates the many thoughts and prayers we have received,’’ Lujack’s grandson, Grant Pohlmann, said. “There will be weeks of rehab and therapy ahead, but things have gone well.’’
The 89-year-old Lujack, who starred at the University of Notre Dame and has called the Quad-Cities home for 60 years, underwent spinal decompression surgery early Wednesday morning at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
Dr. William Krauss told family members that he was “pleased’’ with the outcome of the five-hour surgery and that following a few days of rest and recovery, Lujack will be in a position to begin the rehabilitation process.
Pohlmann indicated in an email that Lujack was “holding court with all the nurses and making us laugh’’ shortly after he was wheeled into his room at the Mayo Clinic’s intensive care unit.
Lujack was airlifted to the renowned Minnesota facility on Monday for a neurological examination after dealing with health issues for several weeks.
Pohlmann said family members are grateful for the assistance of members of the Notre Dame family who helped Lujack receive immediate attention from the doctors at the Mayo Clinic.
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“We cannot say enough about how appreciative we are to the Notre Dame family and for the time and effort they put in to helping our family,’’ Pohlmann said. “We are all so touched and thankful for everyone’s help.’’
Lujack won the Heisman Trophy in 1947 while playing for Notre Dame and is the oldest living winner of college football’s most prestigious award.
He helped lead the Fighting Irish to national championships on the football field in 1943, 1946 and 1947 in addition to earning varsity letters in basketball, baseball and track.
Lujack has lived in the Quad-Cities since 1954, following four years with the Chicago Bears and a brief stint as an assistant coach at Notre Dame.
His wife, the former Patricia Schierbrock, is a Davenport native, and Lujack eventually joined her father in the family’s automobile business.
Lujack sold the dealership in 1987 but has continued to split time between homes in Bettendorf and Indian Wells, Calif., since that time.