The arbitrary nature of my dad, Ron Kostelnik’s NFL career continues to astound us. In a way, a single football game changed his life.
He did not play organized sports at all until high school and caught the University of Cincinnati football program’s eye by chance, based on game film sent in for an opposing Cambria County high school football player.
Ed Denk played for Greater Johnson High School and my dad, who played for Central Cambria County High School in Ebensburg Pennsylvania, showed up on game film Denk’s coach sent to UC. Both players ended up playing for the Bearcats and became car pool buddies and lifelong friends.
Eligibility rules kept freshmen off the field back then, and a knee injury meant my dad missed his sophomore year as well. But, in one game against North Texas State his senior year, he recorded 14 unassisted tackles and was named the UPI defensive player of the week. By the end of that season he was a Missouri Valley All-Star, an honorable mention All-American and a participant in the prestigious 1960 North-South All Star game.
The pro football scouts came calling.
One scouting report said, “(Miami of Ohio Coach) John Pont says that this boy has a great future in pro ball. He is 6-4, 260 and mean…Could be a real choice as a future — He is junior eligible and if drafted he will play.”
Another says “Wants to play. Should get bigger. Coach Delaney says the boy has real good pro potential.”
And a third says “Works hard. Great morale. Well Liked. Should get bigger. Has not reached his potential.”
Though his entire collegiate football career lasted just 20 games, my dad was drafted by the Packers in the second round of the 1960 NFL draft.
Denk earned a trip to the All American Bowl in 1959 and played for the AFL’s Boston Patriots (now the New England Patriots) until an injury ended his career in 1960.
Both my dad and Ed Denk are proud members of the University of Cincinnati Hall of Fame.