Long before he became a household name as a head coach, Knute Rockne was a Notre Dame student, a kid from Chicago and spent several years saving up enough money to go to college. Now, a “rookie card” from early in his career as a Fighting Irish football player—one that came from his estate– is up for auction.
The real photo postcard shows Rockne as an underclassman at Notre Dame, wearing his football sweater and posing for the camera. It’s one of only a small number of images known to exist that feature Rockne during his college playing career.
RMY Auctions says the photo was recently removed from a Rockne family photo album and is being offered by itself for the first time. They call it “one of the most important pieces of photography we have ever offered for sale.”
Rockne was born in Norway and his family immigrated to the Chicago area when he was five years old. After high school, he took a job as a mail dispatcher, working in the post for four years to earn money so he could attend Notre Dame.
He became a key member of the football team and played a major role in a landmark development in the game’s history. In a 1913 win over Army, Notre Dame unleashed an offensive attack that included Rockne as a receiver, catching passes in stride rather than creating space and stopping to wait for the quarterback’s throw. It was something that hadn’t been done before and is credited with changing the forward pass into a more widely used weapon.
The postcard is among the featured attractions among more than 1,300 lots in RMY’s Summer Premier Auction, set to close Saturday.