RB John Cappelletti (1970-73)
No Penn State football Mt. Rushmore would be correct without including the program’s only Heisman winner, running back John Cappelletti.
In two seasons as the starting running back for the Nittany Lions in 1972-73, Cappelletti carried the ball 519 times for 2,639 yards and 29 touchdowns. His senior season was one of the best in program history, as he ran for 1,522 yards and 17 touchdowns on 286 carries.
This massive season earned Cappelletti the 1973 Heisman Trophy. It was the first time a Penn State player won the prestigious award, and he remains the lone recipient of the award for the program.
It’s what Cappelletti did at the Heisman Trophy ceremony that sticks the most with fans old enough to remember it, though. In his acceptance speech, Cappelletti honored his younger brother Joey, who was fighting Leukemia at the time. Unfortunately, Joey would lose his battle on April 8, 1976. The Heisman’s own website calls this moment the most famous acceptance speech in the history of the award.
Cappelletti’s career earned him a place in the College Football Hall of Fame and his No. 22 is the only number retired by the Penn State football program. His college career also paid off, as he was the No. 11 pick in the 1974 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams.
His play on the field, along with his life story, makes Cappelletti a perfect candidate for the Penn State Mt. Rushmore.