Knute Rockne Letter

Scott Tollefsen's grandfather, Ed, received this letter from legendary football coach Knute Rockne in March 1931. (Courtesy photo)

Pawn Stars

Austin "Chumlee" Russell (left), Richard Harrison, Rick Harrison and Corey Harrison star in History's reality show "Pawn Stars." (HISTORY)

Knute Rockne didn't like his players smoking cigarettes.

At least that's what little Ed Tollefsen took from the letter he received from the legendary Notre Dame football coach.

Tollefsen's teacher at Whittier Elementary School in Kearney had assigned students to mail a question to someone famous, to see if they would get a response.

The 10-year-old queried Rockne about cigarettes. The reply came typewritten and single-spaced on Notre Dame letterhead bearing Rockne's image.

"Dear Edward," the coach wrote, "It has been my experience that tobacco slows up the reflexes of athletes, lowers their morale and does nothing constructive.

"Athletes who smoke are the careless type and any advertisement to the effect that smoking cigarettes helps an athlete is a falsehood."

Rockne signed the letter "K.K. Rockne, Director of Athletics," dating it March 13, 1931.

Eighteen days later, the coach died in a plane crash in Kansas. He was just 43 years old.

On Monday night, TV viewers can see and hear more about the letter when Tollefsen's grandsons, Scott and Tom Tollefsen, appear on "Pawn Stars," History's reality show. The episode airs at 9 p.m. on Time Warner Cable channels 49, 135 and 1135.

"Our family thought it would be fun to present the autograph to the guys," said Scott Tollefsen, a 39-year-old Lincoln attorney. "We thought it would be fun to get on the show and meet the guys."

"The guys" refer to the Harrisons -- grandfather Richard (aka "Old Man"), dad Rick and son Corey -- and Corey's childhood friend Austin "Chumlee" Russell. The Harrisons run the 24-hour World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas, where "Pawn Stars" takes place.

Debuting in July 2009, the reality program is History's highest-rated show and the No. 2 reality show behind MTV's "Jersey Shore." In it, customers attempt to sell merchandise, often telling stories as colorful as the stuff they're trying to hawk. The shrewd hosts quote customers prices.

Brothers Scott and Tom Tollefsen, an attorney in Jacksonville, Fla., are fans of "Pawn Stars." As is their father, Tay, who inherited the Rockne letter from his father, had it framed and hung in his house in Las Vegas.

Scott Tollefsen said his family thought the letter might be worth something since it was dated so close to Rockne's death, but he couldn't reveal what happens in the "Pawn Stars" episode. He admitted to no sentimental attachment to the letter.

"We are all Husker fans through and through," Scott said. Tay played football for Coach Bob Devaney in the 1960s at Nebraska, and their mother, Lisa, was a Husker cheerleader.

"People have asked me, 'Why would you want to sell it?'" Scott said. "My answer is I'm a Husker fan. I'm not a Notre Dame fan. This may be more valuable to a Notre Dame fan."

The family was most intrigued about the question his grandfather posed to the football coach.

"(Rockne) strongly encouraged refraining from the use of tobacco, which we thought was interesting," Scott said.

And possibly worth something.

Reach Jeff Korbelik at 402-473-7213 or, or follow him on Twitter at

Originally published on, part of the TownNews Content Exchange.