John J. Jack Malevich '30 (Football, Boxing, Track, Swimming)

Inducted 1978

Jack Malevich was the first Catholic University football player named All-American and one of its best boxers. He captained the track team for two years and was football and boxing captain as a senior.

Malevich was born on July 24, 1906 in Eveleth, Minn. He graduated from Eveleth High School in 1924, then attended Eveleth Junior College and St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wis. He ventured across country to CUA in 1926, no easy feat in the days before Interstate highways.

The 5-foot-11, 185-pounder played fullback, punter, place kicker and linebacker for the Cardinals. The Pittsburgh Press, in its Nov. 8, 1929 edition, called him a “kicking wonder.”

In the second game of his junior year (1928), a 69-0 victory over American, Malevich scored two touchdowns and made 7 of 8 extra points. He suffered a severe ankle injury two games later against William & Mary and sat out the next four contests. He returned to rush for a TD in a 40-8 Thanksgiving Day and Homecoming victory over George Washington.

CUA’s student newspaper, The Tower, said his play before 8,000 spectators was “…an outstanding performance of line smashing, kicking and defensive play that topped all of his previous remarkable exhibitions.” Malevich was one of four Cardinals named to The Tower’s All-District team.

In the Cards’ 13-6 loss to Boston College at Fenway Park in 1929, Malevich tied the game at 6 on a 70-yard interception return. The Boston Post called him the best player on the field:

“He ran brilliantly, did a large part of the interference, and made almost half the tackles on his side. All in all, there will not be many smarter backs to show in this vicinity for some days yet.”

The national acclaim Malevich received after the game likely went a long way towards his selection as an honorable mention All-American. Four coaches chose the honorees, including the legendary Knute Rockne and Pop Warner.

Malevich was named to The Tower’s first-team all-time CUA football team in 1935. According to the 1930 Cardinal yearbook:

“When we needed those last few difficult yards, it was always Jack on whom we depended to put it over, and when we, in turn, had our backs against the wall, it was again Jack who turned back the enemy with his vicious tackling just behind the line.”

Boxing Prowess

In addition to being captain of the boxing team his senior year, Malevich was also manager, meaning he set the CUA schedule. He fought in the light-heavyweight, heavyweight and unlimited divisions.

In a 1929 match before 4,500 fans at Brookland Gymnasium, a 5-2 triumph over Temple, he knocked his opponent down twice en route to victory. In a 4-3 win at Washington and Lee, he won by technical knockout. He was the Cards’ only winner in a 6-1 loss at NYU.

As a senior, despite fighting part of the season with a broken thumb, he was undefeated.

The 1930 Cardinal said: “He won the majority of his bouts and demonstrated that he is to be included among the best collegiate light-heavyweights in the country.” 

The publication went to say, “Power and dependability have characterized Jack Malevich in his four years with us. These qualities and his good-natured disposition have combined to make him the most popular man on campus.

“He deserves to be ranked with the greatest athletes that C.U. has produced.”

Top Athlete & Student

Malevich was on the swimming team as a freshman and competed in field events in track, including high jump, shot put and javelin. He was the school’s Harris Cup recipient in 1930, still CUA’s most prestigious award for senior male student-athletes. He graduated with honors.

After his Harris Cup selection by a vote of the student body, The Tower said:

“He has attacked his classroom activities with the same fierce determination that has marked his success in other endeavors, and he has been just as successful in the pursuit of knowledge as he has been in the field of sport.”

After College

From 1931-33, Malevich was the first head football coach at St. Norbert College. For nine years beginning in 1934 at Eveleth Junior College, he coached basketball and track, taught and was director of physical education. He enlisted in the Navy in July 1943 and was discharged in 1946 as a lieutenant commander. During that time he coached the Fleet City Blue Jackets football team at a Navy base south of San Francisco.

Malevich returned to his hometown, and from 1946-50, was a coach and athletic director at Eveleth High School and Junior College. He coached football, baseball and track at the high school from 1950-55. According to his son, John Malevich, Jr., he left a lasting impression on the boys he coached.

“He helped a lot of kids in this town,” Malevich said from his home in Eveleth in October 2012. “Even today a lot of people still feel his impact. I think that was his greatest asset – reaching a lot of kids in our school. He did a great job at it.”

Malevich also officiated football, baseball, boxing and basketball, and judged a Minnesota state lightweight title fight in 1953. When he lived on the West Coast, he worked as a referee for the Harlem Globetrotters. His son said he is the last man to referee five straight Minnesota state high school basketball tournaments.

In 1976, the Minnesota High School Football Coaches Association inducted Malevich into its Hall of Fame. He served as mayor of Eveleth from 1978-80. The Minnesota Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association presented him its Distinguished Alumni Award in 1989. A year later he was inducted into its Hall of Fame.

Malevich was good friends with NFL Hall of Famer Bronko Nagurski and Max Winter, a former co-owner of the Minneapolis Lakers and Minnesota Vikings. He died in Eveleth on Sept. 15, 1996 at age 90.

Chris McManes
October 2012