Navy to honor program’s first ever Heisman winner this season

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Navy Midshipmen football program will pay tribute to one of the greats of their past this coming season.

Months after passing away at the age of 81, former Heisman winner Joe Bellino will be honored with his old No. 27 placed at the 27-yard line on both ends of the field inside Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

“Joe Bellino epitomized honor, character, humility and an unwavering love for his alma mater,” Navy Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk said in a statement Thursday. “Joe inspired everyone who knew him and always found time to share his wonderful personality and embracing smile.  The memories we have of Joe will never fade and placing the #27 on the field at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium will help keep his legacy in the forefront, where it certainly belongs.”

Bellino starred for the Midshipmen in the late 1950s, becoming the program’s first ever Heisman winner in 1960. He ultimately recorded 1,664 rushing yards and 31 touchdowns en route to holding 15 school records.

Having overcome the polio epidemic that plagued this nation in the 1950s, Bellino represented the true grit and determination of his time, especially for those who had enlisted in the armed forces immediately following the end of the Korean War and with Vietnam looming.

He ultimately played three seasons with the Boston Patriots before spending more than a quarter century in the United States Navy.

The military school honoring him this season has been a long time coming. That’s for sure.