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The Grave of Emil Sitko

by Randy Snow

Original to www.theworldoffootball.com, Friday, October 20, 2023


On this trip, I traveled to Indiana to visit the grave of a three-time college football national champion. This is Gridiron Grave visit #54.

Halfback Emil Sitko was born on September 7, 1923 in Fort Wayne IN. He attended Central High School in Fort Wayne where he played football and then served in the Navy during World War II. He went on to play college football at Notre Dame from 1946-1949 and was 23 years old when he was a freshman.

During his four years playing at Notre Dame, Sitko won three college football national championships in 1946, 1947 and 1949. He played under head coach Frank Leahy, who once said of Sitko, “He was the fastest starting back I ever coached.” Sitko never lost a college game as the school posted a 36-0-2 record during his time on the team.

In his final game for Notre Dame against SMU on December 3, 1949, the score was tied 20-20 late in the fourth quarter. When Notre Dame got the ball, Sitko walked up to freshman quarterback Bob Williams and said, "OK, for a kid you're a good quarterback, but you give me the ball every play until I tell you different."

Sitko carried the ball every play until Notre Dame reached the SMU 3-yard line. He then said to Williams, "It's OK now, kid, give it to someone else." Williams did. Notre Dame scored and won the game 27-20, going 10-0 and earning their third national championship.

Sitko was the 10th overall pick in the 1946 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams. However, he ended up signing with the San Francisco 49ers and played for the team in 1950. He also played for the Chicago Cardinals in 1951 and 1952. After just three years in the NFL, Sitko retired, returned to Fort Wayne and went into the auto sales business and also the sporting goods business.

Sitko had two nicknames. One was “Red,” due to his red hair, and the other was “Six-Yard Sitko.”

Emil Sitko died on December 15, 1973 in Fort Wayne at the age of 50. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1984.

Finding His Grave

Emil Sitko is buried in the Catholic Cemetery in Fort Wayne, IN. The address is 3500 Lake Avenue, Fort Wayne, IN 46805. He is located in Section “O” There are two cemetery entrances on Lake Avenue. Take the second entrance (if traveling east on Lake Avenue) or the one closet to White Oak Drive. Keep to the right as you enter the cemetery as the road splits almost immediately. After you cross the first intersection, Section “O” will be on your left. Park about 25 yards past the intersection. Sitko’s marker is a few rows back from the road and is right at the base of a tree behind a marker with the name Ream on it.    


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