Arthur Anthony "Art" DeCarlo Sr., a defensive back for the Baltimore Colts who played on the fabled 1958 championship team, died of complications from dementia Dec. 21 at his home in Birmingham, Ala. The former Ellicott City resident was 82.
Born in Youngstown, Ohio, he was the son of Josephina and Antonio DeCarlo, a contractor. He was raised by an older brother after the death of his parents. He worked in a steel mill the summer after his senior year in high school and had offers to play for Ohio colleges.
A high school classmate gave him a one-way train ticket to Athens, Ga., and told him to try out for the Georgia Bulldogs. He stood 6 feet 3 and weighed just 180 pounds.
"He walked on," said his son, James E. DeCarlo of Ellicott City.
He earned a business administration degree at the University of Georgia and played defensive halfback. He started all four years and was later inducted into the University of Georgia chapter of the National Football Foundation College Hall of Fame.
Mr. DeCarlo was drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1953 in the sixth round. He was soon traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers and played one season. He then served in the Army and had his contract traded to the Washington Redskins while he was still in military service.
In late October 1957, he was signed as a free agent by the Baltimore Colts to replace Carl Taseff, who had suffered a broken nose. He remained with the team until 1960 and played in the 1958 championship game against the New York Giants that has been called "The Greatest Game Ever Played." The Colts won in sudden-death overtime, 23-17.
"My father vividly recalled the pregame prayer and the photo of it published in Sports Illustrated," said his son. "He contrasted that emotion with his arrival back in Baltimore when the team bus at the airport was mobbed by a frenzied 2,000 fans. But the game itself was not as special as the men who played around him. He told me they won that day because of their unity and the love they had for each other."
"He was a pass receiver and a defensive back and played both positions very well," said former Colts tight end Jim Mutscheller, who lives in Baltimore. "He was a good friend of mine and of Art Donovan, too. He and our families spent a lot of time together."
In September 1960, Colts coach Weeb Ewbank told a Baltimore Sun reporter, "If I had a son, I would want him to be like Art DeCarlo."
The article said, "If the Colts had 36 DeCarlos they would have no personnel problem. No egos to deflate or inflate for each game. No prima donnas with fiery tempers to soothe."
After retiring from the NFL, Mr. DeCarlo coached a semipro football team, the Harrisburg Capitols in the Atlantic Coast Professional Football League.
In 1965, he became football coach at Loyola Blakefield high school in Towson. He taught mathematics and coached for two seasons before leaving the post to devote time to his construction business.
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Mr. DeCarlo became a general contractor. He built and owned miniature golf courses, including one at Loch Raven Boulevard and Taylor Avenue. He later turned it into a restaurant, DeCarlo's Beef and Beer.
He retired from Panasonic as a national sales manager about 25 years ago.
He then wrote a novel, "Fumbled Kidnap." He also participated in celebrity golf tournaments.
Family members said Mr. DeCarlo suffered head injuries during his football career. He developed memory loss and was diagnosed as having a form of injury-induced Alzheimer's disease.
A Mass will be offered at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Paul Roman Catholic Church, 3755 St. Paul St. in Ellicott City, where he had been a member.
In addition to his son, survivors include his wife of 57 years, the former Mary Helen Kerr; two other sons, Dr. Arthur A. DeCarlo and Dr. Thomas E. DeCarlo, both of Birmingham, Ala.; two daughters, Linda DeCarlo Bauk of Middletown and Donna DeCarlo Schaaf of Ellicott City; and 14 grandchildren.