Bob Pifferini, one of the first San Jose State football players to be selected in a National Football League draft and play for a NFL team, died on December 9, 2017, at age 95. He was recognized as the second oldest living Detroit Lions alumni football player on the day of his passing.
A member of the San Jose State Sports Hall of Fame, Mr. Pifferini lettered in football (1946, 47, 48), basketball (1947) and baseball (1946, 47, 48) following four years in the Army during World War II.
A center and a linebacker on the Spartan football teams, he played for Coach Bill Hubbard’s very successful post-World War II teams that won nine games each season. Mr. Pifferini was described as “…polished on offense, smart and rugged linebacker on defense” in the team’s 1948 media guide. His teammates included six-time All-Pro end Billy Wilson, end Harold Crisler and halfback Frank Minnini, all of whom would play in the NFL; Dick Voris, who coached for six NFL teams; and San Jose State record-setting quarterback Gene Menges, the Spartans’ first 3,000-yard career passer.
The native of Oakdale, Calif., grew up in Modesto and attended Modesto Junior College prior to World War II. Mr. Pifferini was a member of the Spartans’ first bowl team in 1946, a 20-0 winner over Utah State in the Raisin Bowl in Fresno, Calif. He was the team captain of the 1947 team that set a school record for points scored with 327 and closed out his college career breaking the record again with 373 points. During his San Jose State football career, he was an All-California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) and All-West Coast selection. Mr. Pifferini concluded his college football career in 1949 as the first post-war Spartan and only the third San Jose State player to play in the prestigious East-West Shrine Game.
A pitcher for the Spartan baseball team, he turned down an opportunity to pursue a professional baseball career to play his senior season of football for the Spartans. Mr. Pifferini would be selected by the Detroit Lions as the 142nd overall selection (15th round) in the 1949 NFL Draft - only the sixth San Jose State player selected since the draft was instituted in 1936.
Following his pro football career, Mr. Pifferini coached at Lodi (Calif.) High, Foothill College and DeAnza College. Besides the San Jose State Sports Hall of Fame, Mr. Pifferini is a member of the Modesto Junior College, DeAnza College and California Community College Halls of Fame.
His commendations from serving as an Army Technical Sergeant during World War II include the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, the Army of Occupation Medal, the Bronze Medal, for the New Guinea Campaign and the Bronze Medal for the Luzon Campaign.
He is predeceased by his wife of 60 years, Gaynell, a former San Jose State Homecoming Queen. He is survived by his sister, Lili Rice; brother Ray Pifferini; son, Bob Pifferini, Jr.; daughter Trina Rettig and her husband, Glenn; son, Roc Pifferini, and his wife, Joanna; daughter, RaeAnn Scheidt and her husband, Rick; nine grandchildren and six great grandchildren. Roc was a second-generation San Jose State football player on the 1987, 1988, 1990 and 1991 Spartans as a tight end and a long snapper.
A memorial service for Mr. Pifferini is scheduled for Friday, January 5, 11:30 a.m., at the San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery in Santa Nella, Calif.