NEW CASTLE —
Angelo Burrelli was as tough as they come.
The New Castle High two-way starter on the offensive and defensive lines showcased his toughness by missing just two quarters of action his senior year despite breaking his arm blocking a punt.
“He played most of the season with it,” said Burrelli’s former Red Hurricane teammate, Bob Bleggi. “He missed a half of a game. That’s all. He played with the pain. He played with his arm in a cast. Back then, you could do that. He was definitely one of the toughest football players I ever played with.”
ENTERING THE HALL
The 79-year-old Neshannock Township resident will join 11 other inductees on May 4 when they enter the Lawrence County Historical Society Sports Hall of Fame. The ceremony will be held at the New Englander.
“It’s a great honor,” Burrelli said. “I really appreciate it, but I thought our whole team deserved it. We had a great team and if it wasn’t for my teammates, I probably wouldn’t be here today. They were a big help to me. I enjoyed playing with them.”
Thinking about what he’ll say during his speech has caused many sleepless nights for the 1954 New Castle graduate.
“I was nervous when I first found out,” said Burrelli, who with his wife, Beverly, has four sons, Angelo Jr., John, Mark, Christopher, and seven grandchildren. “I didn’t sleep for a month. I kept changing my stories every night. I’d say my prayers, go to bed and try to rehearse what I was going to say. Then, I’d change it. I’m still changing it.”
As an offensive tackle for coach Phil Bridenbaugh, the 5-foot-11, 215-pound Burrelli was happy doing all the dirty work and blocking for his running backs.
“I didn’t mind,” Burrelli said. “We had a bunch of great running backs. I enjoyed making my block and watching them gain yardage. I thought I completed my job in blocking.”
Bleggi picked up a large part of his yardage running behind Burrelli.
“We ran the single-wing, because we had a pretty big offensive line,” said Bleggi, who coached the Neshannock football team to a 112-72-12 record from 1966-86. “Those guys were all over 205, 210. We used to run a play called ‘Wedge Six.’ Ang was the six man, so we ran the wedge right over him. I don’t think anyone ever stopped it. He cleared the way for me most of the time.”
Burrelli’s biggest joys, though, came on defense.
“I loved it,” he said. “I loved to hit people. On first and second downs, I’d take a couple steps past the line of scrimmage and hold my own. If they were passing team, I’d rush the passer on third down. I thought I was good at what I did.”
Opposing teams often chose to run away from Burrelli.
“If I remember right, people ran the other way,” Bleggi said. “They didn’t do much damage where Ang was. He was a rock. He was immobile as far as the offense couldn’t move him. If he was assigned to a position, he stayed there.”
Burrelli was the co-captain of the 1953 Red Hurricane squad that is considered one of New Castle’s best despite not qualifying for the WPIAL playoffs with a 9-0-1 record.
“Back in those days, it was nothing for us to get 10,000 in the stadium,” he said. “It was filled. It was nice to go out on Friday nights and see the crowd we’d get. It was small college atmosphere. It was nice. We did our best, because all those people paid money to come to see you play.”