Few men in the illustrious history of Pitt football have played the game with the fire and intensity that JOE SCHMIDT displayed during his brilliant career in the early 1950s.
Although Pitt’s success as a team was handicapped during Schmidt’s career by the fact that in his four years he played for four different head coaches, he established himself – both at Pitt and later during a sterling NFL career with the Detroit Lions – as one of the finest linebackers the game has ever known.
At Pitt, Schmidt began as a fullback and guard. As a sophomore, coach Len Casanova switched him to linebacker, where he became an All-American. At Pitt, he displayed the skills of anticipation, split-second defensive instincts and brutal tackling that would make him a 10-time Pro Bowler with the Lions.
He played the game at the boiling point. Head down, he would charge straight into thundering linemen. They would meet him head on…with a crashing of helmets and a thudding of shoulder pads. Schmidt would split would-be blockers like wooden soldiers and blast a ball carrier into the next zip code.
He personally, sometimes almost single-handedly, led Pitt to some tremendous victories during his career – a 21-7 victory over Miami in 1951, a 13-7 win over Penn State in 1951, a 21-14 win over Ohio State in 1952, and the memorable 1952 victory against Notre Dame.
Joe Schmidt – LB, Detroit Lions (1953-1965)
Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 1972
Drafted in the 7th round, 85th player overall, in 1953 NFL Draft
Elected to 10 straight Pro Bowls and named All-NFL 10 times
Won two NFL championships with Lions
Once was outfitted in a Pro Bowl with special radio helmet created to measure the impact a football player sustains in a game.
Joe’s brother John, who went to Carnegie Mellon, played one game with the Steelers in 1940.
Joe also served as the Lions head coach from 1967-1972. His 43-35-7 record makes him the last coach in the team’s history with a winning record other than Gary Moeller who posted a 4-3-0 mark in the final seven games of 2000 after replacing Bobby Ross.