Vito Stellino, one of my mentors and one of the most-respected football writers, will be in town to cover the Jags and the Redskins. Over the years, Vito has covered the Steelers, the Baltimore Colts, the Redskins and now the Jags.He’s such an unforgettable character that he’s one of the few writers who former commissioner Paul Tagliabue and tough guy Bill Parcells would always address by first name.
Two great Vito stories. When he was covering the Steelers more than three decades ago, Vito predicted who they would cut to reach the 60-man roster limit. He had a rookie DB named Tony Dungy on the list so Dungy packed his bags and was in the lobby of the players’ dorm in Latrobe, Pa. A front office member came by and asked Dungy what he was doing. Dungy replied, “Mr. Stellino said I was cut.” The staffer told Dungy in no uncertain terms that he wasn’t cut and to get back to his room. Of course, Dungy won a ring with those Steelers and then another as the coach of the Colts. But that’s how seriously Vito’s opinions were taken in Pittsburgh.
And when the Redskins opened the 1993 season against the defending champion Cowboys, Emmitt Smith was holding out so Dallas P.R. chief Rich Dalrymple arranged for us to have conference calls not only with Jimmy Johnson and Troy Aikman but also with Jerry Jones. The first two finished before the Redskins’ locker room time, but the third started just then. Everyone trooped downstairs except Vito. When I opened the media room door on my return 45 minutes later, the first thing I heard was Jones exclaiming, “Vito, you’ve worn me out.” Vito had grilled Jerry about Emmitt’s contract situation for 45 minutes! The denoument to the story is that Emmitt returned after two games and Dallas played host to and won the NFC Championship Game. We’re all in the ecstatic home locker room in Texas Stadium and Vito is grilling Jerry again about Emmit’s contract and other financial matters. What a bulldog!
— David Elfin