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Joe Bellino, Navy Destroyer
Daniel G. Habib
December 04, 2000
NOVEMBER 28, 1960
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December 04, 2000

Joe Bellino, Navy Destroyer

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NOVEMBER 28, 1960

Joe Bellino strolls bidder's alley, a vintage model in a garage full of almost-new cars. Bellino, the diminutive Navy halfback who won the 1960 Heisman Trophy by bouncing off blocks and cutting corners like Herbie the Love Bug, absorbs slaps on the back from a half-dozen buyers as he schmoozes amid the cacophony of auction morning. "We'll sell 3,000 cars today: 400 Toyotas, maybe 300 Hyundais," says Bellino, 62, director of national accounts at ADESA Boston, which annually remarkets more than 100,000 previously leased cars to dealerships throughout the Northeast. "This is game day now."

Forty years ago game day for Bellino meant a single-platoon diet of defense (at safety), offense and special teams. As a senior he rushed for 834 yards, scored 18 touchdowns, won the Heisman and led the fourth-ranked Midshipmen to the Orange Bowl. He shot his 5'9", 181-pound body through holes and around tacklers on calves so thick—18 inches in circumference—his uniform pants had to be slit down the backs of the legs for him to get them on.

Despite Bellino's four-year service obligation, the Washington Redskins and the AFL's Boston Patriots both drafted him in 1961. Aboard a minesweeper in the South China Sea in the spring of '65, near the end of his second tour in Asia, Lieutenant Bellino received a cable inviting him to the Redskins' training camp after he left the Navy that summer. The Patriots followed suit. Bellino played three seasons for Boston but, nagged by rust and injury, scored only one touchdown. "What I lost was the instinct," Bellino says. "A lot of things—how to make cuts, how to read a defender—take time to come back."

Joe lives in Bedford, Mass., 10 miles from his hometown of Winchester—"I'm a homeboy," he says—with his wife, Ann, whom he married four days after graduating from Annapolis. They have two children: Therese, a teacher in Cambridge, Mass., and John, also a Naval Academy alumnus, who's studying for his MBA at Rutgers and is the father of one-year-old Ian, the Bellinos' only grandchild. Joe has owned a food-services company, has served as a vice president of the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi in Boston and is on the board of directors at Northern Bank and Trust, in Woburn. One reminder of his football past hangs on his office wall: a framed gold-and-navy-blue poster of the five Heisman winners from the service academies—Doc Blanchard, Glenn Davis, Pete Dawkins, Bellino and Roger Staubach. "We've all autographed it," Bellino says. "That's one of a kind." A classic, like a 1960 Corvette.

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