Joe Bellino, a Winchester native and former member of the AFL’s Boston Patriots, passed away on Thursday, March 28th at the age of 81. Bellino spent three seasons with the Patriots before serving in the Navy for 28 years.
The #Patriots are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of former New England RB Joe Bellino: https://t.co/ZK3JFt6otW pic.twitter.com/1SCRJP0jDl
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) March 29, 2019
Joe Bellino Passes Away at Age 81
Bellino was a home-grown star, spending his childhood in Winchester, Massachusetts. A three-sport athlete, Bellino received professional interest from major league baseball teams and even received a contract offer from the Pittsburgh Pirates. However, Bellino opted to eschew the Pirates and play college football for the US Naval Academy.
Bellino was an immediate star at the collegiate level, gaining national attention for his work on the gridiron. As a senior, Bellino recorded 834 rushing yards, 264 receiving yards and even threw two touchdowns while serving as the teams’ primary punter and kick returner. His fantastic season earned him 1960 Heisman honors.
The NFL’s Washington Redskins and the AFL’s Boston Patriots both selected Bellino in their respective drafts. Bellino ultimately chose Boston, although he had to wait before making his professional debut. As a Navy graduate, Bellino had to serve five years following graduation. This obviously impacted his draft stock, and Bellino remains the lowest drafted Heisman winner in league history.
Bellino finally made his professional football debut in the 1965 season. Serving as the teams’ primary kick returner, Bellino finished his rookie season with 138 return yards on seven attempts. Additionally, Bellino also recorded 49 rushing yards and 74 receiving yards during his first year in the league.
Bellino spent three seasons with the Boston Patriots before calling it a career. During his time on the field, Bellino recorded 64 rushing yards on 30 attempts to go along with 151 receiving yards and one touchdown on 11 receptions. His biggest impact on the field came in the kicking game, where Bellino finished his career averaging 21.0 yards-per-return on kickoffs and 7.8 yards-per-return on punts.
Bellino returned to the Navy following his playing career. Bellino spent 28 years serving his country before retiring with the rank of captain.
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