James DeAngelis, a son of immigrants who became a Yale football celebrity and was the last survivor of its famed 1934 lineup of Ironmen, died Wednesday in Wallingford, Conn. He was 97.
Mr. DeAngelis, a 165-pound center and linebacker, was one of the 11 players on the team that upset Princeton on Nov. 17, 1934, ending the Tigers' two-year winning streak of 15 games. There were no substitutes for Yale that afternoon, the starters enduring for the full 60 minutes, a feat never matched in college football thereafter. They became known as Yale's Ironmen, a tag that followed each to the end of his life.
Mr. DeAngelis was a New Haven youth "from the other side of the tracks," as he described himself for the book "Yale's Ironmen," (William N. Wallace, iUniverse, 2005). He was born Mariano Vincenzo DeAngelis; his father was a bricklayer and stonemason when he could find work, and his mother was a factory worker.
"I had no business going to Yale," he said in the interview. "It was circumstance and luck that got me there."
After graduation from high school, Mr. DeAngelis took a job with the local telephone company until he was persuaded to attend nearby Milford Academy. His support came from a patron, Clarence Blakeslee, the head of a New Haven construction company and a benefactor of boys in need. After two years there, Mr. DeAngelis was accepted at Yale, from which he graduated in 1935 with a bachelor of science degree.
He was too poor to have much of a social life, he later recounted. His Yale teammates included John Hersey, the author, and Larry Kelley, an all-American end and a recipient of the Heisman Trophy in 1936. Kelley caught the touchdown pass that resulted in Yale's 7-0 victory over Princeton, a result voted sport's foremost upset of 1934 in an Associated Press poll.
It was Mr. DeAngelis, on the game's opening kickoff, who tackled Ken Sandbach on Princeton's 2-yard line, the first of a series of mishaps for the Tigers. He also stopped running back Homer Spofford 2 yards short of the end zone during the first of four goal-line stands for the Bulldogs.
Mr. DeAngelis distinguished himself in football and basketball, throughout school and college. He later became a football coach at Yale and at Bates, Toledo, Nebraska, and Washington, before and after World War II, in which he served as a naval officer.
He returned to the New Haven area in 1953 and became a sales manager for automobile dealerships and then for a concrete pipe company in Hamden. He retired in 1991. For the past decade, he was a resident of Ashlar Village, a retirement community in Wallingford.
"He lived a life that his parents could never have imagined," said his son, James, a retired professor at the University of Pittsburgh who is his only immediate survivor.