It's a long way from Tooele to Notre Dame. And we're talking more than just distance here.
George Melinkovich made that big move back in 1930 from a small Utah town to big-time athletics and ended up enjoying a successful football career with the Irish.Melinkovich will be in town Thursday to be inducted into the Utah Sports Hall of Fame, along with basketball player Jeff Judkins, skier Marvin Melville and sports writer Marion Dunn. "It came from out of the blue. I'm elated," said Melinkovich of his honor.
"Mink" went back to play for Knute Rockne, but unfortunately never got to play for the famous coach. Following Melinkovich's freshman season, Rockne was killed in a plane crash in Kansas.
Nevertheless, Melinkovich went on to success with the Irish, earning all-America honors as a fullback in 1932.
"I made the team as a sophomore and jumped all the way from fifth string fullback to second string halfback," said Melinkovich from his southern California home this week. "By the third game I was a starter and ended up as a regular. My biggest game was against Pitt, which was undefeated. I scored two of our three touchdowns."
As a junior, Melinkovich returned the opening kickoff against Northwestern 98 yards for a touchdown. He also remembers big days against Kansas and Army. That was the year he earned all-American honors.
After sitting out a year with jaundice, he came back to finish his career as the right halfback. He was injured and missed the last two games, which kept him from earning all-America honors again.
Melinkovich went in to coaching and had a short stint at Utah State and a few years at Judge Memorial, before heading to southern California, where he taught in the L.A. School District for more than 20 years.
At the age of 79, Melinkovich still works as a substitute. "As a matter of fact I taught today," he said earlier this week.
He said he used to swim in the ocean until it got too dangerous, so nowadays he keeps active by walking and bicycling.
As for college football, Melinkovich sees vast changes in the game in the past 60 years.
"It's a different game altogether," he said. "It's amazing how highly specialized it is. In my day, you had to go both ways and you had to play a whole quarter before you could come out. And the players are so much bigger now. Back then, there were very few guys over 200 pounds."
Melinkovich still loves to watch the game. "I have a clicker, so I can watch two or three games at a time."
His favorite teams include Washington, Nebraska and Oklahoma, but not USC. "They were always our rival," he said. Of course his favorite team of all? Who else? Notre Dame.