Joe Scibelli, a standout offensive lineman with the Rams for 15 years and one of the team's most popular players, died Wednesday in Boston of cancer. He was 52.
Scibelli was a fixture at right guard from 1961 to 1975 and seldom missed a game because of injury.
He was part of a veteran offensive line that included tackle Charlie Cowan, who played with Scibelli for 15 years, and guard Tom Mack, who was with the Rams from 1966 through 1974.
At 6 feet and 255 pounds, Scibelli was small by today's standards for offensive linemen. Moreover, he had a peculiar build and was exceedingly top-heavy. Former teammates and coaches said he was one of the Rams' smartest players.
Harland Svare, coach of the Rams in the early 1960s, recalled that Scibelli was an overachiever.
"He wasn't physically gifted, but he was smart and he could play," Svare said. "Joe wasn't a hard-muscled, V-shaped player, but he could do it all--pull for the run or pass-protect."
Cowan, now an administrative assistant with the Rams and one of Scibelli's closest friends, said the former Ram guard "didn't even look like a football player. However, he was very effective. Our families were very close and our kids grew up together."
Jack Teele, a former Ram public relations director, recalled that Scibelli excelled through intelligence, hard work and consistency.
Marlin McKeever, a former teammate and a close friend, said: "He was one of the guys in the trenches that never got the publicity, but nobody in the league could do anything against him."
Scibelli played in the Pro Bowl in 1968, and he was a team co-captain during his last 10 years with the Rams. He was named the Rams' most valuable offensive lineman five times, and five of the Ram teams on which he played won their division. He was an All-Pro selection in 1973.
Scibelli is also remembered as an articulate spokesman for the players.
"He was my right arm," said Ken Iman, who as a center played alongside Scibelli. "We fought a lot of wars together. He was like a brother to me."
A 1985 readers' poll by The Times named Scibelli to the Rams' all-time team.
Scibelli, who grew up in Springfield, Mass., played for Notre Dame as a sophomore. But he didn't return for his junior year, electing to finish college at American International in Massachusetts. He was drafted by the Rams in the 10th round in 1961.
After retiring, Scibelli ran a produce distributorship in Springfield, his hometown.
McKeever recalled that even after Scibelli was told that he had cancer a few years ago, he was upbeat. "He never complained or said, 'I had a raw deal,' " McKeever said. "He still had a smile for everybody, and tremendous dignity."
Funeral services were planned for Springfield. Arrangements were incomplete.
Scibelli is survived by his wife, Louise, and a son, Chris.