Naval Academy Director of Athletics Chet Gladchuk announced Thursday that Joe Bellino’s #27 will be placed on the turf at the 27-yard line at both ends of Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium facing Navy’s sideline as a tribute and in memory of the 1960 Heisman Trophy winner, who passed away on March 27. Bellino was the first Navy player to win the Heisman Trophy and the first to have his number retired.
“Joe Bellino epitomized honor, character, humility and an unwavering love for his alma mater,” said Gladchuk. “Joe inspired everyone who knew him and always found time to share his wonderful personality and embracing smile. The memories we have of Joe will never fade and placing the #27 on the field at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium will help keep his legacy in the forefront, where it certainly belongs.”
Bellino, a native of Winchester, Mass., was known as the player who was never caught from behind. In just three seasons, he scored 31 touchdowns, rushed for 1,664 yards on 330 carries, returned 37 kicks for 833 yards and set 15 school records.
Bellino was a unanimous All-America selection at halfback in 1960 and was also the winner of the Maxwell Award. His end zone interception preserved Navy’s 17-12 win over Army that season. The Midshipmen were ranked as a high as fourth in the country and went on to play in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 1, 1961.
Bellino was also an outstanding catcher and outfielder on the Navy baseball team. He hit .428 in 22 games in 1959 and led the Eastern Intercollegiate League in stolen bases. He had a .320 average in 1960 and was the baseball team captain in 1961.
Army partisans can hardly forget the 1959-60 academic year for what Bellino did to the Cadets. In addition to his three-touchdown performance in the 1959 Army-Navy game, he was equally sensational in the Army-Navy baseball game in 1960. Bellino went 4-for-4 at the plate, drove in three runs, stole two bases and threw out two Army runners attempting to steal as Navy carved out a 9-1 win.
Bellino capped off his senior year (1960-61) at the Academy by winning the school’s top two athletic awards, the Thompson Trophy and the Naval Academy Athletic Association Sword, marking the first time in 41 years that one midshipman received both of these awards.
Bellino’s #27 jersey in football was retired after the 1960 season. He had a three-year stint with the Boston Patriots after he had completed his four-year service obligation. He stayed in the Navy Reserves for 24 more years and reached the rank of Captain.
Bellino was a 1977 inductee into the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame and was a charter inductee into the Maryland Football Shrine in 1984. In 2009, he was named to the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial All-Stadium Team. During its annual season-ending football banquet, Navy presents the Joe Bellino Award to the varsity football player whose inspiring on-field performance made a significant impact on the team and contributed to its overall success during the season.
Bellino is survived by his wife of 57 years, Ann; his son, John, a 1989 graduate of the Naval Academy; and his daughter, Therese, as well as his daughter-in-law, Annette, and three grandsons, Ian, Evan and Eric; and his son-in-law, Cary.