Spotlight on the Golden Jacket: Joe DeLamielleure’s journey from blue-collar to bronzed bust

“Joe, can you please get more salt for table 5?”

Joe DeLamielleure, a 13-year NFL veteran who holds six Pro Bowl selections, six All-Pro selections and a spot on the pristine Pro Football Hall of Fame Roundtable among many other accolades, grew up hearing this question. daily from his father.

When most people hear the name Joe DeLamielleure, they think of the tough performer who razed the defensive lines on his way to Canton. He prefers to tell people stories of his time before he became a polished Hall of Famer.

Born and raised in Detroit, DeLamielleure and his family define “blue collar.”

Alphonse DeLamielleure, Joe’s father, owned and operated a restaurant seven days a week. Joe, who gave up attending kindergarten on his father’s advice, frequently helped out in the restaurant in his early years, mostly filling salt shakers and pepper shakers.

“I wanted to go to kindergarten like all the other kids in the neighborhood,” Joe said during a recent visit to Canton. “My dad said, ‘Why are you going to kindergarten? Coloring books at 20? Get out of here and work at the bar with me.

On his high school football team, Joe played both offense and defense due to a shortage of players. He would eventually earn the title “60-Minute Performer” not only because of his relentless play, but also because he played every minute of his games.

Joe credits his hardiness to his blue-collar upbringing.

“My mother taught me to work as a team and to pray – two very important things,” Joe proclaimed in his Hall of Fame induction speech. As the youngest son of 10 children in his family, Joe also credited his older brothers for “roughing him up” and becoming a tough football player.

“I slept with two of my brothers, and I wet the bed. They beat me to death,” he said with a laugh in an interview.

Joe took his “brotherly love” and blue-collar mentality to Michigan State, earning a starting spot on the Spartans offensive line from 1970 to 1972. He capped off his impressive college career by being a first-round draft pick. of the 1973 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills.

These days, people often refer to the Bills as a blue-collar, high-level, down-to-earth team. Without a doubt, Joe contributed to this association. Despite many difficulties, such as the failure of his first physical recruit with the Bills, he held his head high.

A team doctor mistakenly diagnosed Joe with a heart condition.

“The only thing different about Joe’s heart,” proclaimed his Hall of Fame presenter, Larry Felser, “is that it came in ‘enormous’ size.”

In addition to keeping his head held high, Joe also kept his hands high on his blocks, which helped the Bills lead the league in rushing offense from 1973 to 1977. Along with Joe, the Bills offensive line earned them their iconic nickname “The Electric Company”. which reflected their ability to “unleash The Juice” into running back OJ Simpson’s Hall of Fame.

Joe played 13 seasons in the NFL — eight with Buffalo and five with Cleveland on trade — a number that comes up repeatedly on his resume and one he embraced in true blue-collar fashion.

He signed his rookie contract on Friday the 13th, although the Bills want to date the contract for another day. He had 13 players on his high school football team. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame 13 years after his retirement and was the 13th lineman to accomplish the feat. To make matters more intriguing, the press release announcing his election to the Hall went out at 3:13 p.m.

In 2013, he woke up 213 miles from Orchard Park, NY, at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, to raise awareness for a children’s charity.

Joe’s original reason for not worrying about a #13 jinx: “I said I had 13 letters in my last name.”

“I hope 2013 isn’t the year I die,” laughed the wry DeLamielleure while answering a question regarding the number 13 over a decade ago. This year has come and gone, and Joe still roams planet Earth.

Although he won’t live forever, his Bronzed Bust will remain in Canton, telling his blue-collar story for generations to come.