Introducing Gino Marchetti Navy: The junior defensive end, who also shares his position with the Colts Hall of Famer, has been hampered by injuries and took a circuitous route to follow his father on the Mids football team.

October 17, 1998|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

Everything starts with the name.

You dial 800-519-GINO, leave a message, and the man returning the call says, "This is Gino Marchetti, can I help you?"

"Well, yes. It's about your name, of course."

"Oh, I've had that since my freshman year at the Naval Academy in 1967," says Ronald A. Marchetti, a tailback for the 1969 Midshipmen.

"I played with a guy named Huff on the plebe team when freshmen couldn't play varsity. The guys started calling him Sam, like the Giants linebacker, and I became Gino, in honor of the great Baltimore Colts defensive end. It kind of stuck all these years."

And now, some 30 years later, another Gino Marchetti is performing for the Mids as a starting defensive end.

"It pretty much happened the same way as my father," says the younger Marchetti, whose legal name is Michael Jay. "My Navy teammates just started calling me 'Gino.' Someone from public relations heard it, and that's how I'm listed in the media guide."

Neither father nor son is certain whether they are actually related to the Colts Hall of Famer whose name they adopted.

"I lost track of all my father's relatives," said Ronald Marchetti, an executive at MCI Worldcom in Virginia. "I don't think we're related, but it's possible. Gino's family had a restaurant in Walnut Creek, Calif., and that's the same area where I grew up.

"I saw him play twice in Baltimore, but I've never actually talked to him. I've got his old football card as a memento. I guess I planted this cloud in my son's head about the relationship, but you never know."

Michael Marchetti, 22, is proud of his nickname but even prouder to have followed his father's path to Annapolis.

"When I was growing up, my father took me and my brother, Matt, to a lot of Navy games," he said. "I can remember rolling down that hill in the end zone just like the kids do today."

But the younger Marchetti took a more circuitous route to the academy than his father, underlining his tremendous desire to keep the Navy tradition alive.

He started out in familiar fashion by attending Navy Preparatory School in Newport, R.I., but blew out his left knee a week before zTC graduation, putting admission to the academy on hold.

"I was still determined to go to Annapolis, but I knew I'd first have to be rehabilitated," he said.

While healing, he took some classes at Anne Arundel Community College and then spent less than a semester at Virginia Tech. In 1995, he worked various jobs in the academy hospital before being admitted.

"A lot of my friends couldn't imagine me coming back here," he said. "When you're at a regular college, you usually have your own apartment, a lot of social life and freedoms you take for granted.

"I admit I was iffy about the move, but I'd been through all the military regimen in prep school and knew what to expect.

"Basically, I was really looking down the road. I saw through my father and his classmates that after they fulfilled their service commitment, they could pretty much write their own ticket in the business world. It's great to be 18 to 22, rebellious and partying all the time. But I'll gladly sacrifice four years for 40 solid years in the future."

Marchetti's football future has been anything but secure. He reinjured his left knee again his plebe year and played in only five games. The bad luck continued last season when he injured the same knee against Notre Dame and required extensive bone surgery.

"After the last one, the team doctors sat me down and told me that my knee wasn't going to get better and I should consider quitting football," Marchetti said. "But I love playing. I decided to give it one more shot to hear my name announced as a starter."

Perseverance paid off. Graduation took a heavy toll on the defensive line, where tackle Jason Snider is the only returning starter. At right end, Marchetti has been sharing playing time with a quicker plebe, Bwerani Nettles, but Marchetti regained the starting job this week.

"We call Gino our 'one-legged wonder,' " laughs Navy coach Charlie Weatherbie.

"He's really shown everyone how determined he is to contribute to this team. He's a hard worker, but also a very heady player. He's a junior, but plays more like a senior because of his confidence and maturity."

The latest Gino Marchetti hopes to make a name for himself on the football field before he graduates. And one day he just might get an invitation to meet the man himself.

Pub Date: 10/17/98

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