Van Pelt was a two time All-American defensive back at Michigan State University (1971-1972). He was the first defensive back ever to receive the Maxwell Award, symbolic of college football's outstanding player. The Owosso native finished his collegiate career with 256 tackles and was number two on the school's interception list with 14. Drafted in the first round by the New York Giants in 1973, he played 14 years in the NFL (New York Giants 1973-83, Los Angeles Raiders 1984-85, Cleveland Browns 1986). He was a five-time All Pro selection and was chosen for the Pro Bowl five times (1977-81). He was enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame in 2001. Inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 2002.