Was he the first prey of the Sports Illustrated
"Cover Shot" Curse?
Notre Dame QB George Izo had an outstanding junior season in 1958 and he
was touted as the leading candidate for the 1959 Heisman Trophy award. Just
one week before the 1959 season started his picture appeared on
cover promoting his chances to win the prestigious award. That
very same week he suffered a serious knee injury and missed the first three
games of the season along with his chance for the fabled trophy. Was this
the start of the legendary SI cover shot curse?
George recovered from the injury and still had a very successful, albeit
shortened, senior season which led to him being picked by the Chicago
Cardinals as their first round draft choice prior to the 1960 season. He was
excited to be playing in Chicago. The "Windy City" was just a short drive
from the Notre Dame campus and Chicagoans had always vigorously supported
the Irish teams. George figured that by playing in Chicago he could
parlay his future achievements with the Cardinals with his already well
earned popularity as a successful Notre Dame QB resulting in unlimited off
season opportunities in the Chicago business community.
His assumptions began to materialize when he was promised a
lucrative job with radio station WGN even before his first pro season
started. Then the SI
curse reared its ugly head again as the Cardinals suddenly and unexpectedly
moved to St. Louis just prior to the start of the season. Not
only did the job offer at WGN vanish for George but the knee he originally
hurt in college was re-injured shortly after he had just won the Cardinal's
starting QB job three games into the season. He missed most of the season
due to the injury and was subsequently traded to the Redskins just prior to
the 1961 season.
He served as a capable backup QB for the Skins through the 1964
season before being traded to Detroit where he started a few games in 1965
before being mysteriously benched by the Lion's enigmatic coach Harry
Gilmer. He finished his career with the Steelers in 1966 and turned down an
offer to return to the Redskins in 1967 as a back up for Sonny
Jurgensen again. After his retirement from football George moved to the
Bahamas and started the first of many successful business ventures.
George had all the tools to be an outstanding pro QB. He was tall, fast
and threw one of the tightest spirals ever seen. Unfortunately the knee
injury he suffered in college shortly after appearing on the cover of Sports
Illustrated haunted him throughout his pro career.
Helmet Hut was privileged to recently meet up with George Izo
and replicate for him the helmets he wore during his playing days. When
Helmet Hut provided a special inspirational helmet to LSU prior to their big
game with Mississippi in 2003 they won the game and went on to win the
National Championship that year. We have no doubt that the Helmet Hut
"helmet blessing" can reverse a little OLE Sports Illustrated curse and Mr.
Izo will certainly realize the best of fortune in all his future
challenges. You will always be first string on our team George!