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Student’s family tied to Rockne

Tori Roeck | Tuesday, December 4, 2012

As the Notre Dame community anticipates the football team’s upcoming appearance in the national championship game, freshman Noelle Langmack reflects on her family’s connection to the man who originally brought the University’s football program to prominence: Knute Rockne.

Langmack’s great-grandfather, Holger C. Langmack, a professor of physical education at Springfield College in Mass., wrote the first book on football conditioning in 1925 with help from the legendary Fighting Irish coach.

Scott Langmack, Noelle’s father, said his grandfather’s work was unprecedented at the time.

“He was really interested in … how physical fitness can reduce the injuries that people incurred in football a lot at the time and improve performance,” Scott said, “because in the early days … there wasn’t a lot of padding and the helmets were pretty sparse.”

Holger and Rockne were both immigrants from Scandanavia and taught together during the summers at Springfield College. Scott said the two men’s philosophies about physical fitness complemented each other.

“[Holger’s] interest in both minimizing injury and improving performance aligned a lot with Knute Rockne’s of course because of Knute’s beliefs, and [Rockne] was well known as someone who believed in a disciplined physical fitness program in order to develop a really strong team,” Scott said.

Noelle said she was unaware of her family’s connection to Rockne before she chose to attend the University.

“I was between USC and here and somehow, I remember when I visited this campus, it felt like home,” Noelle said. “I remember this summer, I heard my dad mention this connection to Rockne and started to realize that at the University, Rockne is quite idolized as a leadership character and a coach. It’s interesting to hear things about him and be able to say … that I have a connection to someone so special to the University.”

Scott said he stumbled upon his grandfather’s book about eight years ago but did not understand the importance of the connection until his daughter became a Domer.

Noelle said she looked up the book in the Hesburgh Library catalog and found that the school has a copy in the rare books collection.

“[The book] sure looks old,” Scott Langmack said. “It’s funny how they looked in 1925.”

Noelle Langmack said she is honored that her great-grandfather could have had an impact on Notre Dame’s early football success.

“The fact that this was developed for the Knute Rockne program, the program that put Notre Dame in the spotlight at the time as a powerhouse for football and a dynasty – there has to be something about this different kind of conditioning that … probably contributed to the strength of the team and the amount of amazing seasons that they had,” she said.