OCEAN CITY -- Personally, Gino Marchetti was passive, not at allinterested in the spotlight and content to let performance convey hisstatement.
Professionally, among historians of the game, he is the greatest defensiveend the National Football League has ever known.
Election to the all-time team in the NFL's 75th anniversary season was aforegone conclusion. His size (242 pounds, 6-feet-4), his speed (as fast asany halfback for the important first 5 yards) and physical strength earnedMarchetti All-Pro status nine times -- more than any Baltimore Colt inhistory.
Marchetti never went into a victory dance after making a tackle or a sack.Football was a team sport and, in his era, individuality repressed itself.Only the result counted; cheap acts of grandstanding were intolerable andrarely, if ever, occurred.
While attending a weekend reunion of Colts heroes in Ocean City, arranged,oddly enough, by a former Green Bay Packer, Tom Brown, for the benefit of aSalisbury youth fund, Marchetti was asked his views on an assortment ofsubjects.
Sacking the quarterback: "I wish they didn't count them because theyaren't a true measure of what a defensive player does. I hate to see footballbecome like baseball, a bunch of statistics.
"Suppose one end or a tackle is double- or triple-blocked. That meanssomeone else gets the tackle or a sack. If a quarterback runs from the pocketand you take him down, that's a false sack. The player who pressured him isthe one who made the play possible."
So, sacking the passer usually evolves from the collective contributionsof teammates. That's Marchetti's reasoning for why generally happens.
About Baltimore's fanatical love of football, particularly the Colts ofthe 1950s and 1960s, Marchetti explains how he remembers it: "It was specialin our lives. We regularly had 57,000 or more in the stadium and I think I metthem all at one time or another.
"I talked to Willie Lanier, the Kansas City Chiefs linebacker, at the Hallof Fame in Canton, Ohio. He came up and told me he was at Morgan State inBaltimore at the time we were playing and, to this day, he can't get over howthe fans expressed themselves for all the Colts back then."
Was there any one player they put on a higher pedestal than the others?"Yes, Bert Rechichar. In those early years, he had the town in the palm of hishand. Raymond Berry, Lenny Moore, John Unitas, Art Donovan, Ordell Braase, JimMutscheller, any of them, will tell you the same."
Marchetti was asked to explain his little-known role in Don Shula'sbecoming coach of the Colts in 1963. Now, for the first time, he filled in thedetails.
"The year before Shula took over, we got hammered by the Chicago Bears. OnMonday, I got a call to meet our owner, Carroll Rosenbloom. I thought maybe hewas going to trade me. I felt so bad after the beating the Bears gave us.
"When I walked in the room, Carroll asked me why I was depressed. I toldhim because we lost. But he was smiling. Then he said, 'Don't worry; now I gotmy chance to fire Weeb Ewbank.'
"He asked me to recommend a coach. I told him Shula, who had played withus and was then a coaching assistant for the Detroit Lions. We were playingthem the next week. A meeting was set up on the Saturday before the gamebetween Rosenbloom and Shula.
"It was supposed to be secret. No one was to know. But Shula said he wasworking for George Wilson and, as the Lions' head coach, he wanted to tell himor he wouldn't go through with the idea. He informed Wilson. The meeting wasthen held and Shula, after the season was over, got the job."
What about Ewbank? "I thought he was the greatest judge of talent I everknew," said Marchetti. "If he had a weakness, it was being too nice."
His vote for the toughest player of them all was a roommate,linebacker Bill Pellington. And the most talented? "Lenny Moore. He could doanything anybody does today and do it better. I used to tell him before games,'Lenny, if you go, we go.' How true."
The current demand for autographs, for player jerseys and othermemorabilia astonishes Gino. "I guess maybe I should have kept every shoelace,old socks and jockstraps if I had known things were going to be like this," hesaid.
Marchetti, 67, now a retired millionaire from the fast-food business,lives in suburban Philadelphia. But Baltimore, he says, "was the greatesttime" of his life. L All because of his association with a certain football team.