Remembering Former Detroit Lions Fullback Nick Pietrosante

The wonderful photograph below captures Detroit Lions fullback Nick Pietrosante catching the game-winning touchdown pass from Milt Plum on December 2, 1962 as Detroit defeated the Colts 21-14.  Next to the Lions’ mascot is none other than Lindell AC bar co-owner Johnny Butsicaris who also photographed Red Wings games at Olympia Stadium.

Just two weeks earlier Nick Pietrosante graced the cover of Sports Illustrated (11/19/62) as part of a preview article on the 1962 Thanksgiving Game that became one of the most famous Lion games in history when Detroit’s defense smothered Bart Starr in a 26-14 victory.

Lion fullback Nick Pietrosante catches the winning TD on December 2, 1962 at Tiger Stadium.

In the fifth game of the ’62 season, Pietrosante broke the all time Lion rushing record held by Ace Gutowsky as the Lions finished second to the Packers with a 11-3 record. They lost the three games by a total of 8 points! It was hard to swallow.

Pietrosante was a former Notre Dame All-American who was the number one Lion pick in 1959, the same year he was selected as the NFL rookie of the year. Not only was he a powerful runner, Pietrosante was a good receiver, an unbelievably great blocker and was the quintessential fullback in the old T formation.

 As a kid growing up in Dearborn, he was my favorite Lion and if I’m not mistaken, I believe he was also Bill Ford Jr.’s favorite Lion. For many of us, it was a toss between Pietrosante, end Gail Cogdill, and linebacker Joe Schmidt. (I still remember jumping over a pile of leaves in the backyard pretending I was number 33 bowling over for another TD.)

Pietrosante, named to the Pro Bowl in ’61 and ’62 played seven seasons in Detroit before finishing his career with the Browns where he would play two years.

Nick remained in the Detroit area where he was a successful businessman. Sadly, he passed away after a long battle with cancer at the age of 50 in 1988.

6 replies on “Remembering Former Detroit Lions Fullback Nick Pietrosante

  • Mike Floyd

    Just browsing around tonight and saw this. When Nick was in his heydays with the Lions, my buddy and I would play a game we made up, “Nick Pietrosante” which was we would each pass about 35 yards to each other on our front yards and run full speed and tackle one another and we weren’t small 14 year olds…we always loved the hard contact and big collisions Nick seemed to.

  • Patrick Frawley

    I enjoyed reading your piece on Nick Pietrosante. The first year I followed the Lions was 1962, and my favorite Lion was Milt Plum, who, unfortunately, peaked as a Lion the first three games of the ’62 season, then kind of went downhill after that. The QB who threw Pietrosante the TD pass was actually Earl Morrall, who came in as a “relief pitcher” for Plum several games in ’62. As a transplanted Lions and Tigers fan, I enjoy reading your site. Keep up the good work.

  • jim clark

    This stuff takes me back years – I have lived in Scotland now for 40 years but reading about these guys takes me back to those days in Royal Oak. The names roll off – Lions were Cogdill, Barr, Karras, Studstill. Tigers were Kaline, Cash, Colavito. Red Wings were Howe, Ullman, Crozier, Delvechio. Great days and great memories. And of course Motown music.

  • Joe panaro

    Nick was a great guy as my camp counselor at the Andy Robistelli summer camp back in 1956-1957! Fond memories!! Super player – watched him every Thanksgiving Day!!!

  • tom clifford

    As a kid, I worked at the family meat market in Ansonia, CT. All the neighborhood looked up to Nick and his remarkable collegiate and NFL career.
    Making the cover of SI in 1962, was the talk of the town. When he would visit. Nick had an imposing presence. Yet he was great to all the youngsters. Sadly, left us much to soon.

  • Joel Mutnick

    Great remembering all these guys! Remember that great Thanksgiving game, the 4 ‘L’ s and the original fearsome foursome. But Nick P was my favorite of them all!!

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