Joe Fortunato
No. 31
Personal information
Born:(1930-03-28)March 28, 1930
Mingo Junction, Ohio
Died:November 6, 2017(2017-11-06) (aged 87)
Natchez, Mississippi
Height:6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight:225 lb (102 kg)
Career information
Mississippi State
NFL Draft:1952 / Round: 7 / Pick: 80
Career history
As a player:
As a coach:
  • Chicago Bears (1967)
    Linebackers coach
  • Chicago Bears (1968)
    Defensive coordinator
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Games played:155
Fumble recoveries:22
Player stats at · PFR

Joseph Francis Fortunato (March 28, 1930 – November 6, 2017) was an American football linebacker in the National Football League. Prior to the NFL, Fortunato played fullback and linebacker for Mississippi State University, and made All-American in 1951.

Fortunato played 12 seasons for the Chicago Bears (1955–1966), where he served as team captain.[1] He made the Pro Bowl five times,[2] and was named to the NFL 300 Greatest Players team. At the time of his retirement, he held the NFL record for fumble recoveries with 22, which stood until Bears teammate Dick Butkus passed him.[1]

His career ended in 1967 due to a knee injury, from which he transitioned into coaching with the Bears. After spending 1967 as the team's linebackers coach, he was the defensive coordinator in 1968.[1]

After retiring, Fortunato made his home in south Mississippi, where he was a recreational bluegill fisherman.[3]

He is a member of the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame and the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. In 2017, the Professional Football Researchers Association named Fortunato to the PFRA Hall of Very Good Class of 2017 [4] Fortunato is one of only four players, and the only defensive player named to the National Football League 1950s All-Decade Team who has not yet been enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Fortunato died on November 6, 2017.[5]


  1. ^ a b c Larkin, Will (August 10, 2019). "Ranking the 100 best Bears players ever: No. 27, Joe Fortunato". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  2. ^ Freedman, Lew (2008). Chicago Bears: The Complete Illustrated History. MVP Books. p. 81. ISBN 9780760332313. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
  3. ^ Freedman, Lew (July 27, 2006). "All-Pro angler now". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 17, 2020 – via
  4. ^ "PRFA Hall of Very Good Class of 2017". Archived from the original on October 20, 2018. Retrieved December 18, 2017.
  5. ^ "Mississippi State Football Legend Joe Fortunato Passes Away". 8 November 2017.