Harry Jacunski, a major cog in the Yale football machine through the mid-20th century, died of heart failure Feb. 20 at Connecticut Hospice in Branford. He was 87.
Before playing college football at Fordham University in the Bronx, Jacunski attended New Britain High School in New Britain and played all-state football and basketball, graduating in 1934.
At Fordham, Jacunski played end as one of seven famed “Blocks of Granite.” Another Fordham Block of Granite, Al Bart, died early this year at the age of 87. Widely remembered as one of the most successful defensive squads in college football history, in 1937 the Seven Blocks of Granite won 25 straight victories for the Rams.
Jacunski played at Fordham with fellow line members Alex Wojciechowicz and Vince Lombardi in 1936 and 1937. His record over his three years in varsity amounted to 18-2-5.
Jacunski graduated cum laude in 1939 from Fordham and originally pursued a career in accounting. But when he failed to land an accounting post in any of the 35 firms he solicited, Jacunski was forced back to football.
In 1939, Jacunski signed with the Green Bay Packers and played with Green Bay for six seasons. During his tenure as a Packer end, he collected National Football League championships — there was no such thing as a Super Bowl yet — in 1939 and 1944. He made 52 of 55 receptions during his career and was sent to the Pro Bowl in 1939. Jacunski was eventually elected to both the Fordham and Green Bay Halls of Fame.
No matter how hard he tried, Jacunski could not stay away from football.
In 1942, Jacunski told his Packer bosses of his plans to enlist in the Navy to serve his country during World War II. But when he failed his entrance physical exam, Jacunski returned to football. Every year during the offseason, Jacunski worked in construction back home in New Britain.
After retiring from professional football, Jacunski began coaching. He served brief stints as coach at Notre Dame and Harvard before he became a Bulldog assistant coach for 33 years starting in 1948.
Under legendary coach Carm Cozza, Jacunski worked as freshman coach for 16 years and became renowned for his fatherly air with his trainees. During this period he posted a 59-37-3 record and coached players such as Calvin Hill, Brian Dowling, Dick Jauron, John Spagnola and Rich Diana.
Jacunski retired from football in 1980.
Jacunski is survived by his twin sons, Richard Jacunski of Brooklyn and Robert Jacunski of Wallingford, and his remaining two daughters, Carol of Exeter and Margaret of Norristown, Pa. Jacunski also left behind 14 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
None of Jacunski’s children could be reached for comment this week.