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Pappy’s Boys Member Dr. John Najarian Passes Away At 92

Sep 3, 2020
Pappy’s Boys member Dr. John Najarian passed away Monday at the age of 92.

STILLWATER, Minn. – Former Cal football student-athlete and pioneering transplant surgeon Dr. John Najarian passed away Monday at the age of 92.

Najarian, who went on to serve as the head of surgery at the University of Minnesota, played four seasons of football as an offensive tackle for the Golden Bears (1945-48). He was a member of coach Pappy Waldorf's first two teams at Cal that combined for a 19-2 record, won a Pacific Coast Conference co-title in 1948 and played Northwestern in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 1949. Najarian graduated from Cal in three years and played his final season of collegiate football with the Golden Bears in 1948 while attending medical school at UC San Francisco.

"The two weeks leading up to the Rose Bowl were when my med school classmates spent their time studying for finals, which were very important and very difficult in the first year," Najarian said in an article originally published in 2007 in the Cal Sports Quarterly. "So, I went to the Rose Bowl with a suitcase full of books, which I never opened, needless to say."

Najarian may not have opened his books during those two weeks but he earned his M.D. from UCSF in 1952. He became a leader in the field of transplant surgeries and formed one of the world's largest transplant programs at the University of Minnesota. In 2004, he received the Medawar Prize, which is widely deemed as the most prestigious award for outstanding achievement in organ transplantation.

Najarian became the second recipient of Cal's Glenn T. Seaborg Award in 1996. The honor is named after the former University of California chancellor and 1951 Nobel Prize-winning chemist and presented annually to a former Cal football student-athlete for his career accomplishments while representing the honored Cal principles and traditions of excellence in academics, athletics, leadership and attitude.