Hall of Famer, Baltimore Colts legend Gino Marchetti dead at 93

Hall of Famer and former Colts defensive end Gino Marchetti, who became a hero in Baltimore during a Hall of Fame career, has died age 93.

"I kissed him, and he knew me and smiled," Joan Marchetti, his wife of 41 years, told the Baltimore Sun. "That was Gino's way of saying goodbye."

Marchetti — known simply as Gino in his adopted hometown — led the 1958 and 1959 NFL champion Colts as one of the most feared pass rushers in league history, revolutionising the defensive end position by relying on his speed and quickness more than brute strength.

In many ways, he was the prototype of today's NFL speed rusher, though he played in an era when sacks were not kept as an official statistic.

 

"He revolutionised the way you play that position in the NFL," said former Colts player and coach Don Shula, himself a Hall of Famer. "Prior to Gino, the attitude [of pass rushers] was to try to physically overpower the offensive tackle. Gino showed that with good instincts and a lightning quickness, he could get around his man without really engaging him.

"The offensive tackle's uniform never got very dirty, but the quarterback's sure did."

The son of an immigrant coal miner in Pennsylvania, Marchetti's almost balletic moves — he could hurdle a blocker to make a tackle — belied the No. 89's ability to muscle aside offensive linemen.

Yet no Colts player epitomised the club — or the city — better than Marchetti, with Baltimore's love for him reflected in a statement from its current NFL team on Tuesday.

"Gino Marchetti is at or near the top of the greats in Baltimore athletic and football history," the Ravens' statement read. "Beloved in Baltimore, this Pro Football Hall of Famer loved our community and the fans who were so special to him. We appreciate the kindness and respect Gino showed the Ravens over the last 23 years."

 

Marchetti, a World War II veteran, began his career with the Dallas Texans in 1952 before that team folded, helping make him a Baltimore Colt.

He played for the Colts from 1953-66, making the All-NFL team for nine consecutive seasons (1956-64) as the league rose to made-for-TV prominence, by, at least in part, using as a springboard an injury to Marchetti in what many described as the game of the century: a broken leg in the Colts' eventual overtime victory against the New York Giants in the 1958 NFL championship game.

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay tweeted that not only was Marchetti "one of the greatest to play the game", but also "a player who helped turn the nation's attention toward the 'new sport' on television".

Marchetti retired after the 1966 season, having started 151 of his 161 career games over 14 seasons, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1972. He was named to the NFL 50th and 75th anniversary teams.

 

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