On the morning of April 30, a legend of Dons athletics passed away after a battle with pneumonia. Gino Marchetti attended USF in the early 1950s and was a member of the famous ’51 Dons football team. He was 93.
The son of two Italian immigrants, Marchetti grew up in the Bay Area. After graduating from Antioch High School, he joined the army and fought in the later stages of World War II.
Following the conclusion of the war, Marchetti attended Modesto Junior College and played there for one year before coming to the Hilltop in 1949. He played on the Dons’ defensive line for three seasons before being drafted by the NFL’s New York Yanks. When the Yanks went out of business just weeks later, Marchetti and the rest of the roster was sent to Texas, making up the newly-founded Dallas Texans. After one season in Dallas, the Texans franchise folded. Again, Marchetti and the roster were sold to a newly-founded franchise, this time the Baltimore Colts, where he would spend the rest of his career.
Upon his retirement from the NFL in 1966, Marchetti had won two NFL championships, played in 11 consecutive Pro Bowls and had been named an All-Pro twice. At the time, he was widely regarded as the greatest defensive end of all time. In 1959, Los Angeles Rams coach Sid Gillman said, “He’s the greatest player in football. It’s a waste of time to try to run around this guy’s end. It’s a lost play. You don’t bother to try it.”
Marchetti was also responsible for one of the most famous tackles in NFL history. In the 1958 championship game, the Baltimore Colts faced off against the New York Giants. Late in the fourth quarter, Marchetti made a tackle stopping the Giants just inches short of a first down, forcing the Giants to give the ball back to the Colts, who were trailing by three points. Marchetti broke his leg making the tackle, but rather than leaving to get medical treatment, he chose to watch the rest of the game from the sidelines on a stretcher.
When the Colts took over possession, legendary quarterback Johnny Unitas lead a drive to tie the game. The Colts would go on to win the game in overtime, 23-17.
While playing in Baltimore, Marchetti opened a small fast food restaurant which quickly grew to a chain of hundreds of locations along the East Coast. Gino’s Hamburgers’ 359 locations were sold to Marriott Corporation for $48.6 million in 1982.
In 1972, Marchetti was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. He is survived by his five children, 16 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.