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The relationship between Cappelletti and his younger brother, Joey, who died of childhood leukemia on April 8, 1976,1 was made into a television movie in 1977 called Something for Joey; Cappelletti was played by Marc Singer. The movie was based on the book of the same name written by Richard E. Peck and chronicled the bond between the two brothers as Cappelletti supported his young brother through his battle against cancer.
During Cappelletti's senior season, Penn State was scheduled to play the West Virginia Mountaineers in a late October afternoon match. The morning of the game, Cappelletti asked Joey what he wanted for his upcoming 11th birthday. Joey replied "I want you to score three touchdowns for me. No, four." In Something for Joey a shocked Cappelletti is seen confiding to a teammate: "How am I going to score four touchdowns?" At the end of the 1st half, Cappelletti had scored 3 touchdowns, well on his way to four. But head coach Joe Paterno did not like to run up the score against opponents, so when the game resumed after halftime, Paterno told Cappelletti he would be on the bench. Cappelletti quietly took his seat on the bench, without telling Paterno of Joey's wish. Late in the 3rd quarter, one of Cappelletti's teammates told Paterno of Joey's wish. On Penn State's next possession, Paterno shouted "22", and Cappelletti took the field. Cappelletti scored his 4th touchdown on the same possession, and pointed to Joey as he ran off the field.
As the undefeated 1973 team was honored at halftime in the 2013-2014 Penn State football season home opener against Eastern Michigan University on September 7th, 2013, Heisman Trophy-winning running back John Cappelletti received special recognition -- his No. 22 jersey will be retired by Penn State Football. It's the first number to be retired by any Penn State sport.