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.
--Daniel G. Habib
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN G. ZIMMERMAN (COVER)
COLOR PHOTO: DANA SMITH
"What I lost," he says of returning to football after four years
on active duty, "was the instinct."