Gino Marchetti, known as one of the best defensive end players for the great Baltimore Colts in the 50s, died on Monday in Paoli, Pennsylvania. He was 93.
Marchetti, the rugged son of Italian immigrants, died from pneumonia, according to his wife, Joan Marchetti.
“I kissed him, and he knew me and smiled,” Joan told the Baltimore Sun of the last moments with her husband. “That was Gino’s way of saying goodbye.”
The 6 feet 4 inches and 245 pounds man was a legend in and off the field.
After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and bravely fought in the Battle of the Bulge as a machine gunner in World War II.
“It was the best thing I ever did. It gave me the discipline that I needed in my life,” he once said of his World War II experience.
At his return from the war, Marchetti enrolled at Modesto Junior College for a year before joining the football program at the University of San Francisco. He was selected in the second round of the 1952 NFL Draft by the New York Yanks, which later became the Baltimore Colts.
Marchetti played 13 seasons with the Colts and led them to victory in the NFL Championships of 1958 and 1959. He was known for being a ferocious, relentless and effective pass-rusher who had a knack for knowing where a play was going.
One of his better and most famous plays took place in the 1958 championship game against the Giants. He tackled Frank Gifford just a yard before the first down mark. He fractured his ankle on that same play but insisted on watching the rest of the game from the sidelines.
In 1969, he was named the best defensive end of the NFL's first half-century. Three years later, Marchetti entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
In 1994, he was selected as one of the three defensive-ends players to enter the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, alongside Deacon Jones and Reggie White.
He appeared in 161 games on his career with 151 starts, was selected for 11 Pro Bowls and earned All-NFL honors nine times.
Hall of Fame president and CEO David Baker released a statement on Gino’s death saying:
“Gino Marchetti dominated the football field during his career in the 1950s and '60s as a leader of the great Baltimore Colts teams of that era. His ferocious style of play defined the character of a man who possessed a strong desire to succeed, passion, and determination that made him a great teammate.”
“Those same traits made him a highly successful business leader after his playing days. The legacy of Gino Marchetti's well-lived life will forever be preserved in Canton, Ohio to serve as an inspiration to future generations of fans.”
Gino is survived by his wife, Joan; daughters Gina and Michelle; sons John and Eric; 16 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.