Joe Felitsky, a former quarterback at Central Catholic High School who played college football at the University of Pittsburgh, died Saturday due to complications from diabetes. He was 47.
Mr. Felitsky, who grew up in Hampton, was Central Catholic's starting quarterback for parts of two seasons in 1981 and '82. A shoulder injury ended his junior season prematurely, and a knee injury ended his senior season. Despite the injuries, Mr. Felitsky's right arm was so impressive that he drew comparisons to another talented quarterback at Central Catholic -- Dan Marino.
"He was a terrific kid," said former Central Catholic coach Rich Erdelyi. "He had a wonderful arm, a really strong arm. He'd throw the ball and you'd hear it whistle, it had such a tight spiral.
"I don't think we ever lost a game he started, and we lost a lot of games when he didn't play."
Notre Dame coach Gerry Faust saw the potential in Mr. Felitsky and offered a scholarship. In the spring of his senior year at Central Catholic, a mysterious intestinal ailment landed him in the hospital for a month. Doctors never could find the reason for the internal bleeding, but they removed parts of his intestines during two surgeries.
Doctors told Mr. Felitsky after the second surgery that he developed trauma-induced diabetes, a disease that affected him throughout his life. Mr. Felitsky went from 218 pounds to 180 that spring, and his football career was never the same.
Mr. Faust honored the scholarship to Notre Dame, but after taking a medical redshirt during his freshman season, Mr. Felitsky transferred to Pitt.
Mr. Felitsky was a reserve quarterback for the Panthers. His best game at Pitt came against Rutgers in 1986. He tossed a 75-yard pass to Michael Stewart that did not go for a touchdown. At one time it was the longest play in school history not to result in a touchdown.
Mr. Felitsky finished his Pitt career with 458 passing yards and one touchdown.
"He worked his way back," Mr. Erdelyi said. "He wanted to play. He was a very determined kid. He was very coachable and teachable. He wanted to please you. As a coach, you have a few special ones in your career, and he was one of those special ones."
Mr. Felitsky had been beset by health problems in recent months. He had a stent procedure for a blocked artery in November, and he suffered a stroke in January. He died Saturday morning when taking a nap in his home in Cranberry.
Mr. Felitsky is survived by his wife, Jeanne; daughters Ashley Catherine and Anna Joelle and a son, Joseph Charles, all at home; his parents, Joseph and Beverly Felitsky of Hampton; and a brother, James, also of Hampton.
A viewing will take place from 2 to 4 and 6 to 9 p.m. today at Glenn-Kildoo Funeral Home, 130 Wisconsin Ave., Cranberry. Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. Ferdinand Catholic Church, 2535 Rochester Road, Cranberry.
Memorial contributions in Mr. Felitsky's honor may be directed to his family for his children's educations.
Ray Fittipaldo: email@example.com.