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Heisman 1973 John Cappelletti
AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler

Nittany Inspiration

1973 Heisman winner John Cappelletti

Comedian Bob Hope's many trademarks all came together on his Christmas TV specials. He would be shown entertaining American troops. He would have famous singers provide viewers with songs of the season. He would sing "Thanks for the Memories." And beginning in 1971, Hope would introduce the Associated Press All-American team. Each All-American would run out in uniform and stand next to Hope, who would deliver a one-liner about the player. "The Saturday that the Heisman was going to be announced in 1973, I was in New York already, filming the Bob Hope All-American TV show," John Cappelletti said. "It was a huge deal. We watched that show and all Bob's USO shows from when we were kids. "We were just about done when a representative from the Downtown Athletic Club came in and announced that I had won the Heisman." The other players congratulated Cappelletti. The DAC representative informed him that he needed to go to the club immediately. Transportation awaited him outside the studio. That's the cool part. "I quickly found myself in a limo with Bob Hope headed for the DAC. Just me and Bob in a limo talking for about 45 minutes," Cappelletti said, "and to this day I could not tell you one thing that we talked about. I don't know what I was more lightheaded from, winning the Heisman or being one-on-one with Mr. Hope in the limo." Cappelletti would become known for his speech accepting the Heisman. The senior from Upper Darby, Pa., belittled his own accomplishments compared to the fight his 11-year-old brother Joey endured against leukemia. "He puts up with much more than I'll ever put up with," John Cappelletti said, "and I think that this trophy is more his than mine because he has been a great inspiration to me." That limo ride with one of the world's most famous entertainers may have been one of Cappelletti's last private moments for years. "As soon as we hit the DAC and the elevator doors opened up on the second floor it was chaos with reporters and photographers," Cappelletti said. "Mr. Hope and I got separated and I never saw him again. I would have liked to have run into him one more time to at least tell him 'Thanks for the memory.'"
-- Ivan Maisel

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