Nick Pietrosante
No. 33, 36
Nick Pietrosante 1961.jpg
Born:(1937-09-10)September 10, 1937
Ansonia, Connecticut
Died:February 6, 1988(1988-02-06) (aged 50)
Royal Oak, Michigan
Career information
Height6 ft 2 in (188 cm)
Weight225 lb (102 kg)
CollegeNotre Dame
NFL draft1959 / Round: 1 / Pick: 6
Drafted byDetroit Lions
Career history
As player
1959–1965Detroit Lions
1966–1967Cleveland Browns
Career highlights and awards

Nicholas Vincent Pietrosante (September 10, 1937 – February 6, 1988), commonly known as Nick Pietrosante, was an American football fullback. He played college football for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team and professional football in the National Football League (NFL) for the Detroit Lions from 1959 to 1965 and the Cleveland Browns from 1966 to 1967. He was selected as a first-team All-American in 1958, as the NFL Rookie of the Year in 1959, and as a Pro Bowl player in 1960 and 1961. Between 1959 and 1965, he set a Lions franchise record with 3,933 rushing yards.

Early years

Pietrosante was born in Ansonia, Connecticut, in 1937, and attended Notre Dame High School in West Haven, Connecticut.[1] In his senior year at Notre Dame High School, he scored 23 touchdowns in nine games, became the school's first all-state athlete in any sport, and led the 1954 football team to an undefeated season, outscoring opponents 332–12.[2][3]

Notre Dame

Pietrosante attended the University of Notre Dame where he played football as a fullback for the Fighting Irish football team from 1956 to 1958.[4] As a junior in 1957, he recovered a fumble, delivered a key block on Notre Dame's touchdown, and was the leading rusher in a 7–0 victory that broke Oklahoma's record 47-game winning streak.[5][3] For the 1957 season, he rushed for 449 yards on 90 carries and was selected by the United Press as a third-team All-American.[4][6] As a senior in 1958, he rushed for 556 yards on 117 carries and was selected by the American Football Coaches Association and Football Writers Association of America as the first-team fullback on the 1958 College Football All-America Team.[7]

Professional football

Pietrosante was selected by the Detroit Lions in the first round, sixth overall pick, of the 1959 NFL Draft. As a rookie in 1959, he rushed for 134 yards against the Green Bay Packers on Thanksgiving Day, the best rushing total recorded by a Lion since Bob Hoernschemeyer rushed for 198 yards in 1950. After the game, Green Bay coach Vince Lombardi said, "That boy shall be a great one some day. He is very tough to bring down."[8] He also led the NFL with an average of 5.9 rushing yards per carry and won the 1959 National Football League Rookie of the Year Award.[1][9][10]

In 1960, Pietrosante had three 100-yard rushing games, including a career-high 142 yards and two touchdowns against the Dallas Cowboys.[11][12] For the 1960 season, he rushed for 872 yards, a Lions single-season record and the fourth highest total in the NFL that year. He was also selected to play in the Pro Bowl and was named the most valuable player on the 1960 Lions team.[1][13][14]

In 1961, Pietrosante rushed for 841 yards, again the fourth most in the NFL, and was selected to play in the Pro Bowl for the second consecutive year.[1] Between 1959 and 1965, Pietrosante set a Lions' franchise record with 3,933 rushing yards.[15]

In September 1966, shortly before the start of the 1966 NFL regular season, the Lions' head coach Harry Gilmer placed Pietrosante on waivers.[16] Days later, he was signed by the Cleveland Browns, who had lost the services of Jim Brown after the 1965 season.[15] However, Pietrosante saw limited action for the Browns, carrying the ball only 17 times for 93 yards during the 1966 and 1967 seasons.[1] In July 1968, Pietrosante announced at age 30 that he was retiring from the NFL.[17]

Family and later years

Pietrosante was married to Geraldine Marie Cox, a nurse from Connecticut, in 1957.[18][19] They had two daughters, Stacy and Cindy, and one son, Nicholas Judd. After retiring from the NFL, he began a business career in the Detroit area. His business interests included an insurance agency (the Schmidt-Barr-Pietrosante Agency) operated with former teammates Joe Schmidt and Terry Barr, a manufacturers representative company (Nick Pietrosante Associates), and a partial ownership interest in the Dearborn Racquet Club.[20][3][21]

In February 1988, Pietrosante died of prostate cancer at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, at age 50.[20][22][2]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Nick Pietrosante". Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved February 17, 2016.
  2. ^ a b Chip Malafronte (November 24, 2012). "Ansonia born, Notre Dame bred, Nick Pietrosante was larger than life". New Haven Register.
  3. ^ a b c "Nick Pietrosante Chosen To Get Gold Key Award". The Bridgeport Post. November 19, 1970. p. 42 – via open access
  4. ^ a b "Nick Pietrosante". SR/Collets Football. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved February 17, 2016.
  5. ^ "Irish End OU's Record Streak, 7 to 0". Miami (OK) Daily News-Record. November 17, 1957. p. 4 – via open access
  6. ^ "Widwest Lands Three On UP All-America". Lodi News-Sentinel. November 29, 1957. p. 10.
  7. ^ Ted Gangi (ed.). "FWAA All-America Since 1944: The All-Time Team" (PDF). Retrieved February 8, 2015.
  8. ^ "If Only the Lions Got Points for Mistakes". Detroit Free Press. November 27, 1959. p. 43 – via open access
  9. ^ George Puscas (November 12, 1959). "Pietrosante Good; Best Is Yet To Come". Detroit Free Press. p. 36 – via open access
  10. ^ "Pietrosante Takes a Bow with Unitas". Detroit Free Press. January 3, 1960. p. 42 – via open access
  11. ^ "Nick Pietrosante 100-Yard Rushing Games". Database Football. Retrieved February 17, 2016.
  12. ^ George Puscas. "Pietrosante, Morrall Carve Up Dallas". Detroit Free Press – via open access
  13. ^ "Pietrosante Sets Mark". The Oneonta Star. December 19, 1960 – via open access
  14. ^ "Lions Hold an Election . . . Pietrosante MVP!". Detroit Free Press. December 15, 1960. p. 45 – via open access
  15. ^ a b "Cleveland Signs Nick Pietrosante". The Portsmouth Herald. September 9, 1966. p. 10 – via open access
  16. ^ Jim Taylor (September 5, 1966). "G-r-r-r-r-r: Pietrosante Gets Gate --- Chews Up Gilmer, Lions". Detroit Free Press. p. 1D – via open access
  17. ^ "Pietrosante Retires After Nine NFL Years". The Hillsdale (MI) Daily News. July 3, 1968. p. 14 – via open access
  18. ^ "Nick Pietrosante Will Be Honored and Wed in March". Naugatuck Daily News. December 10, 1956. p. 6 – via open access
  19. ^ "Pietrosante Marries". Naugatuck Daily News. March 30, 1957. p. 4 – via open access
  20. ^ a b George Puscas (February 7, 1988). "Lions great Pietrosante dead at 50". Detroit Free Press. p. 1H, 5H – via open access
  21. ^ "advertisement". Detroit Free Press. April 29, 1969. p. 7B.
  22. ^ "N. Pietrosante; running back had career with Detroit Lions". Arizona Republic. February 7, 1988. p. 13 – via open access