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In 1892, Lars Knutson Rockne leaves Norway for America, in search of a better life for his family. The Rockne family settles in Chicago, where little Knute becomes fascinated by football. Years later, now grown to manhood, Knute finally saves enough money to enroll in Notre Dame, where he excels in chemistry and football. With his roommate Gus Dorais, Knute develops the famous football strategy of the forward pass and defeats the Army team. After graduation, Knute stays on at Notre Dame, teaching chemistry and coaching football to earn enough money so that he can marry his sweetheart Bonnie Skiles. After three years, Knute decides to give up chemistry and make coaching his life work. The legendary Notre Dame team finally comes together when Knute finds his half-back in freshman George Gipp. However, tragedy dims the team's triumph when Gipp is stricken with a fatal illness. After Gipp's death, Knute revolutionizes football with the backfield shift of his "Four Horsemen," thus winning further glory for his school. Later, crippled by phlebitis, Knute is forced to coach from a wheel chair, but never loses his team spirit. The real threat that Knute must face is not his phlebitis but the allegation of scholastic favoritism in college football. While flying to a hearing in California to defend his beloved sport, Knute tragically loses his life in a plane crash, but his good works live on in the sport that he strove so hard to build.