Height: 6-2; Weight: 200
College: Fordham, 1936-38
When Jacunski arrived in Green Bay at the ripe age of 24, he already had a connection to the two men whose larger-than-life statues stand outside the front entrance to Lambeau Field.
One of those connections steered him to Green Bay.
Jacunski joined the Packers out of Fordham University, where he played for Jim Crowley, a product of Green Bay East High School before gaining greater fame as one of the “Four Horsemen of Notre Dame.” In fact, Crowley played at East under Curly Lambeau and recommended Jacunski to him.
The other connection took longer to evolve.
While at Fordham, Jacunski played with Vince Lombardi. In 1936, Lombardi started at right guard on a line famously known as the “Seven Blocks of Granite.” Jacunski wasn’t a starter that year, but took over as the left end in 1937 on a line that still bore the nickname. As Lombardi worked his coaching magic in Green Bay in the 1960s, it only added to Jacunski’s cachet as a Packers alumnus.
Jacunski was a member of two of Lambeau’s NFL championship teams in 1939 and ’44.
Although a capable pass receiver, he was probably better known for his defensive work in an era when players went both ways. His most memorable highlight occurred on Nov. 2, 1941, in a huge 16-14 victory over the Chicago Bears. As the Bears were driving for what would have been their third touchdown of the fourth quarter, Jacunski hit quarterback Sid Luckman and forced a fumble that was recovered by teammate Pete Tinsley.
On the offensive side, Jacunski caught 52 passes for 985 yards, an 18.9 average. His best year was 1943, when he caught 24 passes and averaged 22 yards per catch.
“I thought Harry Jacunski proved himself one of the best ends in the league,” Lambeau said in 1940 after the Packers had beaten the NFL All-Stars, 16-7, in the Pro Bowl. “I liked his spirit in going into the game despite a bad ankle.”
The Packers announced the signing of Jacunski as an undrafted free agent on May 6, 1939. Previously, he had told the New York Giants not to draft him because he didn’t plan to play pro football. Almost five months after the draft, Lambeau signed him upon returning from a European vacation.
Jacunski spent a week practicing with the Packers in early August, but didn’t report for good until Sept. 9, 1939, only eight days before the season opener. In the interim, he played in the College All-Star Game in Chicago and the Eastern College All-Star Game in New York.
In mid-August 1942, Jacunski informed Lambeau by letter that he was joining the Navy, but he was turned down for physical reasons and returned to the Packers in late October.
Jacunski mostly backed up Hutson at left end his first three seasons then moved to right end in 1942 and started there his last two seasons. In all, Jacunski played in 55 games and started 33, all at end.
He retired on April 3, 1945, to join the University of Notre Dame as end coach, but still played for the Packers against the College All-Stars that August before truly hanging it up. Jacunski coached briefly at Notre Dame and Harvard, then spent 33 years as an assistant at Yale, starting in 1948.
Born Oct. 20, 1915, in New Britain, Conn. Given name Harry Anthony Jacunski. Died Feb. 20, 2003, at age 87.
- By Cliff Christl