For all of the great plays Gino Marchetti made as a member of the Baltimore Colts, his most famous moment might have come when he insisted to stay on the sideline.
In the 1958 NFL championship game against the New York Giants, the famous “Greatest Game Ever Played,” Marchetti tackled Frank Gifford on a game-saving play, but broke his leg. He was taken off the field, but refused to leave the sideline.
"If I wasn’t an old Army veteran, I probably would’ve cried. But I didn’t, nah, nah,” Marchetti told WBUR in 2016. “My reaction was, I wanted to see the end of the game."
Marchetti’s toughness was a reason he made 11 Pro Bowls as a dominant defensive lineman, was named first-team All-Pro seven times and made the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Marchetti died at age 93, according to the Baltimore Ravens.
Statement from the Baltimore Ravens on the passing of Gino Marchetti: pic.twitter.com/ssyBqH0ZPu
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) April 30, 2019
Marchetti was a great player for many years for the Colts, though his life story included much more than football.
Gino Marchetti fought in World War II before joining NFL
Before becoming an NFL star, Marchetti joined the Army. In 1944, just out of high school, he enlisted and went to Europe with the 69th infantry during World War II. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge according to WBUR.
"Joining the Army was the best thing I ever done because without that kind of discipline that they teach you, I wouldn’t have been able to play football, I think,” Marchetti told WBUR.
In 1952, Marchetti started his NFL career with the Dallas Texans. The next year he joined the Colts, where he starred for a team that became beloved in Baltimore.
Between 1954-64, he made the Pro Bowl every season. Starting in 1957, he made first-team All-Pro seven times in eight seasons. He was named the best defensive end of the NFL’s first 50 seasons. He was one of three defensive ends on the NFL’s 75th anniversary team, along with Reggie White and Deacon Jones.
His most memorable football moment came in one of the greatest games of all-time, a game that helped launch the NFL into a new age of popularity.
Marchetti was key figure in NFL’s ‘greatest game’
With the Colts trailing 17-14 in the 1958 NFL championship game and about three minutes to go, the Giants gave the ball to Gifford, their star halfback. He was stopped inches short of a first down on third-and-4. At the end of the play Colts defensive lineman Gene “Big Daddy” Lipscomb landed on Marchetti, breaking Marchetti’s leg. The Colts got the ball back and tied the game at the end of regulation, with Marchetti watching from the sideline, and won in overtime on Alan Ameche’s 1-yard touchdown run.
Although the legend of Marchetti refusing to leave the sideline is a huge part of the lore of that game, he was taken back to the locker room after Baltimore tied it at the end of regulation. That doesn’t diminish the tale.
In 1957 Marchetti started a fast food hamburger chain in Baltimore called Gino’s Hamburgers, which grew to more than 350 stores by the late 1970s. He remained beloved in Baltimore long after his final NFL game.
Marchetti had an interesting life before and after football. But what he did with those great Colts teams made him a legend.
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