A first generation Italian American and lifelong Michigan native, John Conti first showed his love of sports early in life, excelling in both football and basketball. After high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving from 1943-1946 while honing his skills in football.
When he returned from service, Conti became a standout football player at the University of Detroit in the late 1940s. As a 300-pound lineman, Conti captained the 1949-50 Missouri Valley Championship Team, earning All-Conference honors in the process. During his playing days, he was the biggest man in college football and excelled on both the offensive and defensive lines. Aside from dominating at the varsity level, Conti coached the 1949 and 1950 UD freshman team’s lineman as well. The Detroit Lions drafted him in 1950.
After earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Business, Conti went on to coach at St. Martin and St. Paul High Schools in Detroit. He had an enormously successful business career and retired as the Michigan Division Manager for Anheuser Busch after 41 years with the company. He received numerous awards during the course of his professional life, including the Michigan Food and Beverage Association’s Man of the Year Award in 1992.
John Conti has been a champion for several charitable causes over the course of his life, including the United Way, Children’s Hospital of Detroit, the March of Dimes and the Muscular Dystrophy Association. He also played a major role in the enormous success of the NFL Alumni Celebrity Golf Tournaments, now played in 35 cities across the country. The State of Michigan recognized Conti in 1984 for his achievements in sports and for his tireless efforts for charitable causes by honoring him with a resolution in the state legislature for his community service.
The University of Detroit has presented John Conti with several awards and honors, including the UD Alumnus Award, the Athletic Department Support Award, and the Athletic Director’s Ring. In 1984, the University of Detroit John Conti Letterman of Distinction Award was established to honor former varsity athletes who brought honor to themselves and the school through efforts in their workplace and in the community. He was inducted into the School’s Hall of Fame that same year.
He was inducted into the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in 2005.