Once a 5-foot, 9-inch 180-pound halfback for the Naval Academy, Bellino was the first player awarded the Heisman trophy in 1960 for his exceptional performance on and off the field, according to the Heisman trophy website.
The Massachusetts native quickly became a star on the Naval Academy football team. Referring to his Massachusetts hometown and lightning-fast speed on the field, Bellino’s teammates dubbed him the “Winchester Rifle.” One newspaper labeled Bellino “the player who was never caught from behind,” reported the Capital Gazette.
Bellino won the Heisman in 1960 after rushing 834 yards and 15 touchdowns, and completing three touchdown passes that season. During his three-year career at the academy, Bellino scored 31 touchdowns, rushed for 1,664 yards on 330 carries, returned 37 kicks for 833 more yards and altogether set 15 Naval Academy football records.
The Heisman is awarded each year to an outstanding American NCAA college football player “whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.”
Before he was star halfback for the Midshipmen, Bellino had the option of playing pro-baseball right out of high school. He was offered a contract from the Pittsburgh Pirates but instead elected to play football for the Navy despite offers from Notre Dame and other Big Ten schools, the Heisman trophy website wrote in his memorial.
Bellino was a unanimous all-American selection. He also won the Maxwell Award before winning the Heisman over Penn State’s Richie Lucas, scoring 1,929 points to Lucas’ 613.
The Naval Academy retired Bellino’s number 27 jersey after he finished the season in 1960.
The “Winchester Rifle” went pro, playing for the Boston Patriots for three years after he served his obligatory four years with the Navy. After hanging up his jersey with the Patriots, Bellino served in the Naval Reserve for 28 years before retiring with the rank of captain.