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St. Bede senior Michael Bellino is the 2013 NewsTribune Defensive Football Player of the Year. He had 128 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, two passes broken up, one fumble recovery and one interception. NewsTribune photo/Scott Anderson
When freshmen enter the St. Bede football program, defensive coordinator Mark Siebert takes all the potential defensive players into a room and explains each position.
“He writes up our base defense and he’ll say, ‘Here’s your tackles, we need these kind of guys,’” St. Bede senior Michael Bellino said. “He leaves linebacker toward the end. He’ll say, ‘These guys are the heart of our defense. You have to be willing to sacrifice themselves, be big hitters and be willing to take a hit.’
“I remember sitting there thinking, ‘That’s the guy I want to be. I want to be in on the plays, I want to be hitting people, I want to be getting hit back and challenged.’”
So Bellino became a linebacker.
The 6-foot-5, 240-pound son of St. Bede head coach John Bellino came up to the varsity at the end of his freshman season — later than Siebert wanted — and was a fixture at linebacker the next three years.
This season, Bellino racked up an area-best 128 tackles (77 solo), including 12 tackles for loss. He also had two forced fumbles, two passes broken up, one fumble recovery and one interception.
Bellino also provided valuable leadership for a young Bruin defense that featured just two seniors and multiple freshmen, helping it finish as the third-best scoring defense in the area.
For all those accomplishments, Bellino is the 2013 NewsTribune Defensive Football Player of the Year.
“He gave us great leadership on the defensive side. He did all the calling of signals and calling of defenses for Mark. He’s very knowledgeable,” John Bellino said. “Physically, he was our guy. There was nobody bigger or stronger than he was. I think the kids looked toward him to respond.”
Michael Bellino has been preparing to be a standout for the Bruins since a young age when he was around the program with his father, when he was watching older brothers John Jr. and Andy play for St. Bede and later when he’d work out or do drills with his brothers.
“His older brothers were quite interested in his career,” John Bellino said. “They knew he was a little bit bigger than they were. Especially John really kind of pushed him hard and talked to him about both the offensive and defensive sides of the football.”
Michael first played football as a seventh grader, but really started to learn the intricacies of the sport freshman year.
“I learned a lot freshman year. I took it all in at once from (my dad) and coach Siebert,” Michael said. “My dad would talk to me about things on the ride home. We didn’t want to talk about it at dinner when my mom maybe didn’t know what was going on, but he would find time just me and him to talk things over, to get ideas before games, go over things last minute about tendencies, formations and things like that.”
Throughout his career he gained more and more knowledge of St. Bede’s defensive scheme by working closely with Siebert.
“Being a part of it the last two years was a big help,” Michael Bellino said. “I kind of know what’s going on and who has to do what. I had the front 5, front 6 down pretty well as far as knowing responsibilities and coverages. This year, I sat with coach Siebert a lot and talked over defensive back calls as far as what coverage they were supposed to be in and who they had in man coverage.
“That was just phone calls after I did my homework at night or sitting in the office after practice, just to get those straight so I could be the guy on the field when there was no coach around to help.”
Michael also worked on the physical aspects of his game.
He went with teammate Michael Slingsby to Don Beebe’s House of Speed three times a week in the summer, organized workouts for the team and trained with his brother John — doing linebacker and receiver drills, lifting weights and working on little things like hand fighting in man coverage.
And all the preparation — both mental and physical — made him the heart of the Bruin defense.
Just like he wanted when he entered the program freshman year.
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.
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