Offensive end John George Kovatch Jr., wearing uniform no. 40, poses with teammates from the 1942 World Champion Washington club of the National Football League. The group stands together in a wide panorama photograph, set against the backdrop of cavernous Griffith Stadium in the nation's capitol. What makes this image extra special is that fellow player no. 33 is one of the NFL's all-time greats, future Hall-of-Famer "Slingin' Sammy" Baugh, a halfback who helped popularize the forward pass and during his career set 13 NFL records as a passer, punter and defensive back.
John played his college football at Notre Dame. Signing with Washington, and during an Oct. 18, 1942 game in Ebbets Field against the Brooklyn Dodgers, in front of 25,635 spectators, he caught a 13-yard Baugh touchdown pass in a 21-10 victory, the only TD reception of his career. A week later, at Pittsburgh's Forbes Field, in a 14-0 win, he played against the Steelers' future hall-of-famer "Bullet Bill" Dudley.
With World War II aflame, John left after a year to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps. Upon his return home, he rejoined Washington for the 1946 season. He then spent 1947 with the Green Bay Packers, playing under the tutelage of hall-of-fame coach Curly Lambeau. Thus in his only three seasons as a pro, John appeared in 21 games and caught 18 passes for 157 yards.
John's wife, Elizabeth Jane "Betty" McMillan, was the daughter of Major Vernon Ream McMillan, Mayor of Terre Haute, IN, once featured in the Saturday Evening Post for his Wabash River cleanup efforts. This branch of the family traces its roots to 19th century tannery owner Jehu and Mary Ann (Ream) McMillan of Listonville, Somerset County, PA, featured in the "Legacy of the Old McMillan Tanneries" page on this website and as our Photo of the Month for December 2021.
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