Angelo Bortolo Bertelli...1943 Heisman Trophy Winner. . .Played in the 1950 All-Starr game. . . Notre Dame All-American. . .1972 College Football Hall of Fame Inductee. . .1944 Number One Draft Choice (Boston Yanks). . .Born June 18, 1921, in West Springfield, Massachusetts... Died on June 26, 1999... .
Angelo Bortolo Bertelli was born in West Springfield, MA on June 18, 1921 to Italian immigrant parents. At Cathedral High School in Springfield, he won all-state honors in football, baseball and hockey and was senior class president.
When Bertelli entered Notre Dame in 1940, he was 6 feet 1 inch and 173 pounds, a skinny but highly regarded tailback in the single-wing formation used by most college teams. When Coach Elmer Layden left to become commissioner of the National Football League, Notre Dame's new coach, Frank Leahy, immediately noticed Bertelli's passing talents.
As a sophomore, Bertelli, still a single-wing tailback, led the nation with a 56.9 percent passing average, completing 70 of 123 attempts. In 1942, Leahy switched to a modified T-formation, in which Bertelli would play under the center and take every snap. As he told his budding star, "Bert, you're the finest passer and the worst runner I've ever coached." That summer, preparing for his new role, Bertelli said he took "a thousand snaps...maybe a million." Bertelli and the T-formation were an immediate success. He passed for 1,039 yards and 10 touchdowns. Celebrated sportswriter Grantland Rice referenced Bertelli as "the T-formation magician."
During his senior year in 1943, the Marine Corps activated Bertelli after six games of Notre Dame's 10-game season. In the six games Bertelli started in, he threw 36 passes, completing 25 with 10 touchdowns. Bertelli's six-game 1943 performance was enough to win the Heisman Trophy earning 648 votes. During Bertelli's three seasons, Notre Dame lost only three games. In 1943, Notre Dame won 43 to 5 on average.
While at Notre Dame, Bertelli enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserves in 1942 prior to his activation to active duty in the fall of 1943. In 1944, Bertelli was promoted to the rank of second lieutenant, where he served as an infantry and recreation officer. After stops at Quantico, Camp Lejeune and Camp Pendleton, Bertelli embarked to participate in combat operations in the Pacific. After arriving from Guam in February 1945, Bertelli fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima and was nearly killed when a Japanese mortar shell landed 15 feet away from his position. Bertelli returned to Guam in March and served in Sasebo, Japan before returning to the states in March 1946.
After World War II, Bertelli entered the Marine Corps Reserves where he was promoted to the rank of captain and served until 1957. In 1946, Bertelli signed with the Los Angeles Dons of the All-America Football Conference. Bertelli played for the Chicago Rockets between 1947 and 1948. After several knee surgeries, Angelo Bertelli retired prior to the 1949 Season.
Bertelli's collegiate career earned him multiple awards. Bertelli was to the 1942 and 1943 All-American Teams. In the Heisman voting for America's outstanding college football player, Bertelli finished second in 1941 and sixth in 1942 before capturing the trophy in 1943. Though on active duty with the Marine Corps, the Boston Yanks selected Bertelli as their number one draft choice in 1944. Bertelli was later inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1972
After his retirement from professional football, Angelo Bertelli moved to Clifton, NJ and operated several businesses. On 26 June 1999, Angelo Bertelli passed away at the age of 78 after a bout with brain cancer. He is survived by his wife, the former Gilda Passerini and four children.