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Original Issue


Nick Pietrosante (see cover), the Detroit Lions' violent-running fullback, shown here holding his 10-month-old daughter, Stacy, is one of the more resourceful providers in professional football. "Why does Daddy play football?" he recently asked his older daughter, Cindy, who is 2½. "To make more money to buy me salami," said the precocious Cindy. Pietrosante lives in Farmington, Mich. with his daughters and wife Geri. More than salami, a victory over Green Bay is his immediate hope. The two teams play on Thanksgiving Day; should the Lions win, they could overhaul the Packers for the Western Division title. That would provide for Detroit and Cindy's appetite.

Pietrosante is an articulate ex-Notre Dame All-America for whom praise has always been lavish—except once. Otto Graham said he was too slow for pro football. "That scared me," said Pietrosante, who was so frightened that by the fifth game in this, his fourth year, he broke Ace Gutowsky's lifetime Lion rushing record. He is the complete fullback: a fine, adaptable runner, a splendid blocker, a good pass receiver and, perfect for Detroit, a devoted Lion. He forgave roommate Carl Brettschneider for splitting his lip with an elbow. "You've got to be patient with Carl," grinned Pietrosante, "since he is a naturally dirty player." Nick suffers when he does not carry the ball often, and he has carried less than usual this year with the arrival of Milt Plum as Lion quarterback. "The less I run, the less I have to talk about at contract time," he says quietly. The Lions pay him upward of $20,000, which is 75% of his income. The rest comes mostly from Steelman Harry Levine (below), for whom Hick is a public relations man and troubleshooter. Levine calls him "hard-working," "aggressive" and, as an afterthought, "wonderful."

On game day Pietrosante is a Catholic first and a Lion second. In New York to play the Giants, he worships (below) at Holy Cross Church. He is serious, well mannered and remarkably even-tempered. "When the playing stops and the fights start," he says, "I go sit on the bench." Detroit sportswriters consider him bland copy, but away from the field he is found to be glib and forthright and even combative, as when he speaks candidly of his days at Notre Dame ("The firing of Terry Brennan was a disgrace—but I had to eat those words when I first said them because Father Edmund Joyce, the school vice-president, called me on the carpet").

Pietrosante runs virtually straight-legged, as though his feet were moving through snow, but at 6 feet 2 and 220 pounds he hits with considerable authority. While he is not the equal of Green Bay's Jim Taylor or Cleveland's Jim Brown as a runner, he is their superior as a blocker. He thinks the way to beat the Packers is to play their game: brute force and ball control. For a look at the defense he will have to crack on Thanksgiving, turn the page.