This Saturday at Davis Wade Stadium, former Mississippi State linebacker/fullback Joe Fortunato will be immortalized in the Mississippi State Ring of Honor. Fortunato played for the Bulldogs from 1950-1952 where he starred at linebacker and played fullback during the 1952 season. During the 1950 season, Fortunato intercepted eleven passes, which is remarkable considering the lack of passing in the early 1950’s. Joe also rushed for an average of 86 yards per game in 1952, and eclipsed the 100 yard mark four different times between 1950 and 1952. In addition to his dominance on both offense and defense, Fortunato also led the team in punting during the 1952 season, he was truly a jack of all trades. In 1951, he was named to the Athletic Publication All-American team, the All-SEC team and the All-South team.
Fortunato was drafted in the seventh round of the 1952 NFL draft by the Chicago Bears where he would emerge as a star linebacker from 1955-1966. During his tenure with the Bears, Fortunato played in a total of 155 games where he intercepted 16 passes, recovered 22 fumbles and scored two touchdowns. He would go on to win a NFL Championship in 1963 with the Bears. By the end of his career, Fortunato had tallied a total of five Pro Bowls, was a three time First-team All-Pro, a Second-team All-Pro, was named to the NFL 1950’s All-Decade Team, and was even named to the NFL 300 Greatest Players team. After his playing days were over he spent two seasons as a coach with the Bears; 1967 as the linebackers coach and 1968 as the defensive coordinator.