OXFORD, Miss. - Ole Miss and the State of Mississippi lost a sports legend Monday, July 29, when Robert “Bobby” Crespino, 75, passed away at Emory University hospital in Atlanta, Ga., following a lengthy illness.
The family will receive visitors from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 1 at St. Richard Catholic Church in Jackson, Miss., and from 1 to 2:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 2 at Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Macon, Miss. A funeral mass will be held at Corpus Christi at 2:30 p.m. with a brief graveside service to follow. Cockrell Funeral Home of Macon is entrusted with arrangements. The online guest register may be found at www.cockrellfuneralhome.com.
Born Jan. 11, 1938 in Duncan, Miss., Crespino was preceded in death by his brother Samuel Joseph “Chris,” wife Barbara and son Robert, Jr. He is survived by his mother-in-law Dotsy Hardin, his daughter Mary Lou Mitchener (Keven), his son Joe (Caroline) and five grandchildren.
Crespino earned three letters (1958-59-60) while playing on three of John Vaught’s best teams at Ole Miss, compiling a 29-3-1 record, including three bowl victories and earning a share of national championships in 1959 and 1960. The 1959 team finished 10-1, allowing only 21 points all season while being named the Southeastern Conference “Team of the Decade.”
His best year was in 1960 when he led the team with 30 receptions for 408 yards and four touchdowns as the Rebels finished 10-0-1, including a 14-6 win over Rice in the Sugar Bowl. Crespino had 41 career catches for 632 yards and six TDs, averaging 15.4 yards per reception.
Crespino caught eight passes for 92 yards and one TD against Tennessee in 1960 and also had six receptions vs. Mississippi State. His longest reception was a 78-yarder from Jake Gibbs against Vanderbilt in 1959 and his longest rushing play was 27 yards against Rice.
He overcame physical handicaps to become a star at Ole Miss as he suffered a knee injury during his 1958 sophomore season and a broken collar bone in spring training in 1959.
Following his career at Ole Miss, Crespino was selected to play in the Chicago All-Star Game, Senior Bowl and Coaches Association All-America Bowl. He caught nine passes for 214 yards and two TDs in the 1961 Senior Bowl and was named co-Outstanding Back for the South team, sharing the honor with Norm Sneed of Wake Forest. Crespino’s Senior Bowl TDs covered 70 and 47 yards, and the 214 yards receiving established a new Senior Bowl record.
Selected in the first round of the 1961 NFL Draft (10th overall) by the Cleveland Browns and in the sixth round of the AFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders, Crespino played three seasons (1961-62-63) for the Cleveland Browns and five years (1964-65-66-67-68) with the New York Giants. He saw action in 107 NFL games, catching 58 passes for 741 yards and nine TDs, averaging 12.8 yards per reception, and served as the Giants’ player representative to the NFL Players Association before retiring from pro sports following the 1968 season.
Crespino’s prep football career got its start at Benoit High School in 1954. In hopes of landing a major college scholarship, he transferred to Greenville High School for his senior season in 1956, earning All-Southern honors and then playing in the 1957 Mississippi High School All-Star game.
He was inducted into the Ole Miss Athletics Hall of Fame in 1991 and the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 1994.
Crespino was a leading member of Macon’s business community for 30 years and served as Alderman at Large for the city of Macon for over 20 years. He was a member of Corpus Christi Catholic Church where he helped oversee a renovation of the sanctuary and the construction of a fellowship hall.