Where are they now: Gino Marchetti

The Colts' legend catches up with Ken Crippen Ken Crippen

Print This April 15, 2014, 03:00 PM EST

After the 1959 season, the team started to slip. But, Marchetti’s life outside of football began to take off. According to Marchetti, “In 1959, when we won the championship, [Rosenbloom] called me one day to come to his suite. I walked in. After some discussions, he said ‘I want you to move to Baltimore. You are well liked there. I want you to move to Baltimore and I want you to go into business.’ I said, ‘I do not have the money to start a business.’ He said, ‘I will help you. But, I want you to move to Baltimore.’ He helped me get into business with Alan Ameche, Joe Campanella and [Louis] Fisher.”

Marchetti continued, “They wanted me to join them in putting up a 15-cent hamburger place like McDonalds. I was going to join them, but first thing I wanted to know what I could do. We had this location on Pulaski Highway and we needed $100,000. The landlord wanted security. The location would cost us $10,000 per year for 10 years. If we went broke, we would have to immediately come up with the money. I went up to New York to see [Rosenbloom]. He said, ‘What can I do for you?’ I said, ‘You said you would help. We have a lease on Pulaski Highway and we need somebody who would be willing to sign the lease, so that if we went broke, they would pay the $100,000.’ He asked, ‘Why type of business?’ I said, ‘Hamburgers. We are going into the 15-cent hamburger business.’ He said, ‘Is that all? You drove all the way to New York for that? You have my signature.’ I was so nervous that he was not going to help me. He said, ‘I will take care of the landlord.’ Let me tell you, we were right about that location. That was the best location in the country. We were doing $15,000 per week.” The restaurant was named Gino’s Hamburgers.

In 1962, Eubank was fired. Marchetti had a hand in Eubank’s replacement. “I will tell you this story. I never said anything about it until Shula had said it at a banquet and it got in the paper. In 1962, we played the Chicago Bears. They beat us 57-0. They whooped us. You are sad and you go home. Monday morning, I got a phone call about 8:30 in the morning. The guy said, ‘Carroll Rosenbloom of the Colts organization wants to see you at the Beverly Hotel in his suite at 11:00. Can you make it?’ I said, ‘Yeah. I can make it.’ When a guy like that wants to see you, you can make it. I went down and went in the room. I sat down and waited for him to come out of the bedroom. He came out of the bedroom. I was moping around. I was almost ready to cry, thinking I am moving. I said, ‘I don’t understand. I came out of the game. We got the hell beat out of us. I was in a bad mood last night. I am in a bad mood this morning. It is like everything is against me.’ He is laughing. I said, ‘Carroll, why are you laughing? We got beat. Maybe you didn’t see the game?’ He said, ‘Yeah. I saw the game. Now I have an opportunity to fire Weeb.’”

He continued, “I asked, ‘Why do you want me here?’ He said, ‘I want a recommendation from you.’” Marchetti joked, “Then I started feeling loose. I knew that I wasn’t going to get cut, traded, let go, or whatever. I said, ‘That would be a hell of an honor if you liked it and it worked out.’ He said, ‘Let’s talk about it.’ I said, ‘Carroll, the only thing I know – and I would bet my life on it – is that we have a guy that coaches on the field. A guy that coaches in the game plans. He is the guy that does all of the defensive coordinator’s responsibilities.’ He said, ‘Yeah, who is that?’ I said, ‘Don Shula.’ He said, ‘What makes you think that Don Shula is tough enough?’ I said, ‘He is tough enough. The thing I like about him is that he runs tough practices. He gets upset. But, he doesn’t keep it in his head. He lets it go.’ I recommended him. I went down the hall. Then I got a call from Carroll. He said, ‘We are playing in Detroit this week. I want you to arrange a meeting with Don for me. I want to talk to him personally.’ I said, ‘I don’t think that he will do it.’ He said, ‘Why? Why wouldn’t he come to meet me?’ I said, ‘Well, there is this thing in the National Football League where you don’t bypass ownership of a team to recruit somebody off of their team.’”

Marchetti continued, “He called Shula. Don said, ‘You know, Carroll, it is a great honor and I appreciate it very much. However, I cannot take the job under these conditions. If I am going to take the job, I cannot do it unless I notify Detroit.’ Most teams will let coaches move to different teams at that time. They would not stand in the way of them getting a promotion. That hurt Carroll. He was not used to having guys turn them down. We played Detroit. They met. I flew out to Los Angeles and played in the Pro Bowl. About six o’clock in the morning I got a call. It was Don Shula. He said, ‘I want to thank you.’ I said, ‘For what?’ He said, ‘I got the job. I am going to be the coach of the Colts.’ That is how that happened. I am glad that it wasn’t a mistake.”

After the 1964 season, Marchetti tried to retire, but was persuaded to come back. After the 1965 season, he retired again. According to Marchetti, “I wanted to retire the year before because we started the restaurant business. I got to love that and work at that. I did retire in 1965. It was a lot of fun to retire. In 1965, I stayed out the whole year and I ran the business. We went from one store to about 20. I was the operational guy. I was cooking hamburgers and setting up procedures. I was happy as hell. One night, Shula called me and asked to have a few beers. We got together and he said, ‘You look like you are still in shape. Do you think that you could still play?’ I said, ‘I always think I can play. You are asking a guy the wrong question.’ I went home and he called me and asked me to meet him at the stadium. I went down. He asked me if I would come back to play and finish out the year. He talked me into it. I played. When it looked like they weren’t going to win it, I didn’t play. I just travelled with the team. I had a good time.” After the 1966 season, Marchetti retired for good.

In 1972, Marchetti was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame with his former University of San Francisco teammate Ollie Matson. According to Marchetti, “Ollie Matson was probably the greatest athlete I ever played with. Offense. Defense. Track. Going to the Olympics.” He continued, “Let me tell you something on why I have such a high opinion of him. We had played our last game. He only needed one touchdown to set a record for college touchdowns scored in a season. He came out in the third quarter for a rest. A guy named Buckley was his sub. All of a sudden, Ollie’s sub rushed down to the two-yard line. Everybody comes up from the team and says, ‘Ollie. Go in there. Joe [Kuharich] wants you to go in and for you to get the record.’ He said, ‘No. He got it that far, he should take it in.’ I know a lot of guys who would fight to get that last call to go in and get the record. Their egos were bigger than their head. Ollie’s was not.”

In 1982, Gino’s Hamburgers was sold to Marriott Corporation. Marchetti remembered, “I left the company two or three years before that. A conflict with the other guys. I thought I should look for something else to do. I was operational director for 500 stores. We were going to think about expanding. But, the chairman of the board (Fisher), wanted to go across the world. The trouble is that the new stores did not get the push that we got in Baltimore or Pennsylvania. Things started to slow down a little. I never wanted to go back to Antioch broke.”

After leaving Gino’s, Marchetti continued to work in the restaurant industry. “I worked with Ron Kerstein in Baltimore. He was with Wendy’s and had about 130 Wendy’s. I was on his board [of directors]. I helped him with his stores. I did that for about four or five years.”

After that, Marchetti took it easy. “I did some deep sea fishing for a few years.”

In 2009, the Gino’s name was resurrected. According to Marchetti, “I didn’t do that. I got a call from an employee of mine. He talked to me about going back into the Gino’s business. He got the name from Marriott. They didn’t secure it. They also had Kentucky Fried Chicken and they opted not to use it. They were stupid not to use it. They also didn’t use the Gino’s name or the recipe for the chicken. I met with him and he told me what he wanted to do. He said, ‘I would like you to help me get it started the right way.’ I asked him, ‘Are you going to do Gino’s, or are you going to do something else? If it is something else, it would be too much work. If it were Gino’s, I would probably do it.’ I helped him. I didn’t get paid. We got this location in King of Prussia (PA) and we opened it. I did what I was supposed to do with the hamburgers and the recipes. All of a sudden, they started to change the food. Change the recipes. That is when I decided to leave and evidently, a lot of customers also left. I walked away two or three years ago.”

Before his recent surgery, Marchetti was an avid bowler. “I am just starting to get back to it. I had a 299 game one time.” He joked, “That is all the questions I am answering on my bowling.”

He does not go back to the Hall of Fame ceremonies each year. “The last time I was there is when [Jim] Kelly was inducted. It went on for a while.” He continued, “When I went in there, they told us seven minutes and no more. I thought, I am going to have a hell of a time with seven minutes. That is kinda long.” Marchetti added, “Another thing I think that they are doing wrong is that they are having their kids introduce them. They had a policy that you had the one person that had the most influence on your career. The one individual that helped you above everyone else. Not a 12-year old kid to tell people that his daddy was the best. I don’t go for that.”

Marchetti currently lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife.

• Dallas Texans (1952)
• Baltimore Colts (1953-64, 1966)

• Selected to the Pro Bowl (1954-1964)
• All-NFL Selection (Associated Press First Team 1955-62 and 1964, Second Team 1963)
• NFL’s 50th Anniversary Team (1969)
• Pro Football Hall of Fame (1972)
• National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame (1978)
• Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame (1985)
• NFL’s 75th Anniversary Team (1994)
• Listed as one of the 100 Greatest Football Players (Ranked 15th) by The Sporting News (1999)
• NFL’s All-Time Team (2000)
• East-West Shrine Game Hall of Fame (2004)
• NFL’s 100 Greatest Players (Ranked 39th) (2010)

Ken Crippen is the former executive director of the Professional Football Researchers Association. He has researched and written about pro football history for over two decades. He won the Pro Football Writers of America’s Dick Connor Writing Award for Feature Writing and was named the Ralph Hay Award winner by the Professional Football Researchers Association for lifetime achievement on pro football history.

Follow Ken on Twitter @KenCrippen

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