The “Springfield Rifle” earned his reputation as one of the most nimble and dexterous ball-handlers in football history. “[Bertelli was] the finest short passer that I’ve ever seen in the collegiate ranks.” – Johnny Lujack
Born June 18, 1921, in Springfield, Massachusetts, Angelo Bertelli began his football career at Notre Dame. He earned the nickname the “Springfield Rifle” for his strong, accurate arm, but was equally renowned for his clever ball-handling and punting.
In his sophomore year, Bertelli played single wing tailback in the Notre Dame box formation and completed 70 of 123 passes for 1,027 yards.
The following year, coach Frank Leahy switched to the T-formation, at least in part to capitalize on the skills of Bertelli, who switched to quarterback. The payoff: Bertelli completed 74 of 165 passes for 931 yards.
In 1943, Bertelli completed 25 of 36 passes for 512 yards and ten touchdowns in six games before he was drafted into military service. Despite his abbreviated season, Bertelli was named All-American and awarded the Heisman Trophy.
Johnny Lujack, his successor at Notre Dame, called Bertelli “the finest short passer that I’ve ever seen in collegiate ranks” and sportswriter Grantland Rice called him the finest ball-handler he had ever seen.
Following World War II, Bertelli played in the All-American Football Conference for Los Angeles and Chicago from. As a professional – between 1946 and 1947 – he completed 76 of 166 passes for 972 yards and eight touchdowns.
Bertelli was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1972 and the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in 1984. He died June 26, 1999.