WVU Sports Hall of Fame
Written by John Antonik
A powerful running back who enjoyed a long, successful career in the NFL, Joe Marconi ranks high on the list of great Mountaineer running backs.
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Born February 6, 1934, Marconi grew up in Frederickstown, Pa., where he was a stellar high school football player. Accepting an athletic scholarship at Maryland, he didn't like the school and instead wound up at WVU.
Initially used on defense, Marconi proved to be too effective as a runner and was installed in Lewis' "T" formation. Piling up 998 career yards on 181 carries for an impressive 5.5 average, Marconi also found the end zone 18 times during his career.
Rushing for 104 yards on 19 carries against Pitt in 1953, Marconi's best performance as a Mountaineer came against North Carolina State. Carrying the football just 11 times, Marconi rambled for 118 yards in a 27-7 Mountaineer win in his last college football game.
A member of the 1954 Sugar Bowl team, the all-Southern Conference back helped WVU to a 31-7 record during his four years, including a 30-game winning streak in the Southern Conference. Selected to play in the College Football All-Star Game and the Blue-Gray Game after his senior year, his stellar performances in both games helped him become the Los Angeles Rams' No. 1 draft choice in 1956.
Getting playing time as a rookie, Marconi rushed the football 75 times for 298 yards and seven touchdowns. Toting the football 104 times in 1957, Marconi gained a career-best 481 yards while scoring three touchdowns. Totalling 1,769 yards and 21 touchdowns as a Ram, Marconi was traded to the Chicago Bears before the 1962 season.
Playing five additional years with the Bears, Marconi's best year as a professional came in 1963, when he rushed for 446 yards and two touchdowns while helping Chicago to the NFL title. For his efforts in 1963, he was selected to play in the 1964 Pro Bowl, the crowning achievement in his 11-year professional football career.
He played two more years in 1965 and 1966, but injuries and age kept him out of a lot of the action. Rushing for 2,771 career yards, he also caught 136 passes for 1,326 yards while accounting for 39 total touchdowns as a pro.
Retiring from football in 1966, Marconi became a sales representative in the steel business from his home in Downer's Grove, Ill. A close friend of Bear great Mike Ditka, Marconi joined Ditka in many Chicago area charities.
Never losing his ties with the University, Marconi was one of the founders of the WVU Letterman's Club and was a keen contributor to Mountaineer athletics. Marconi resided in Downer's Grove until his death on August 23, 1992.