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KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- If you're a Notre Dame fan, this weekend's game against Western Michigan probably won't raise your blood pressure much. The heavily-favored Fighting Irish should have little trouble climbing to 4-3. The payout for WMU (2-3) will more than cover travel costs and coach Bill Cubit's annual salary in the process.
But there's plenty of excitement just 75 miles to the north of South Bend as Western makes its first trip to Notre Dame since 1920. The two programs clashed that year and also in 1919. The Irish beat the Broncos by a collective score of 94-0.
Known more for the Kalamazoo Promise, a program backed by anonymous donors that provides free college education to all of the city's public school students, as well as being the home of Bell's Brewery, Kalamazoo also has some interesting ties to Irish football.
Johnny Lujack, a quarterback who guided Notre Dame to national titles in 1946 and '47, earned the Heisman Trophy as a senior before going on to play for the Chicago Bears. But his great-nephew truly carried on the family name at QB.
There's a reason few people knew Brandon Luczak, who holds nearly every passing record at Kalamazoo College, a Division III program that plays in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association, had such a famous bloodline.
"There are a couple of stories about why [Johnny's] last name was spelled differently," said Luczak, who graduated from K-College in 2009 with 6,884 career yards and 58 touchdowns. "I've heard that the hospital where he was born burned down, his records were lost and his name was misspelled. I also heard he changed it so announcers would pronounce his name correctly."
The Hornets had little team success in Luczak's four years on campus, but MIAA announcers had plenty of opportunities to practice pronouncing his name. The Rochester Hills native ranks first at Kalamazoo in pass attempts (1,058) and completions (613). The 5-foot-11, 245-pounder put up Denard Robinson-like numbers as a senior last fall, accounting for 524 total yards against Bluffton (Ind.) and 498 versus Hope -- the top two performances in school history.
K-College played Notre Dame seven times from 1893 to 1923, never scoring a point against the Irish. The closest contest was in 1919, a 14-0 ND victory.
Just down the road at Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Central High School is a freshman offensive linemen also with legendary Irish blood running through his veins. Danny Stuhldreher, the great-great-nephew of Harry Stuhldreher -- on of the famed Four Horsemen -- is plugging away for a struggling varsity squad that's won just two games this season. The Hackett Fighting Irish square off against Kalamazoo Valley Association foe Galesburg-Augusta Friday, a team that's 0-7. Stuhldreher, who also plays defensive end, hopes to keep his seven-game sack streak alive.
Then he plans to travel to South Bend Saturday to root his beloved Notre Dame to victory over the hometown Broncos.
"People always ask me about [my name]," the 6-2, 180-pounder said. "Some people don't believe me, but once I tell them all about Harry, and I know everything, they do. My grandpa and a couple of my uncles went to Notre Dame, too. But only Harry played football. I hoping to be the next one. That's my biggest dream right now."