Wearing our heart on our No. 77 sleeve

A tiny, battered yellow jersey launched our family’s proud affiliation with the number 77 Packer jersey, officially worn by my dad from 1961 through 1968.

Today we all own replica Ron Kostelnik jerseys. My family’s history with the number 77 Packer jersey traces some of the coolest stories we have to tell.

The little cotton sweatshirt, one half of a toy uniform, started the fashion trend in the 1960s, but the real story of our unabashed association began in 1986.

As a college student mulling a career in sports journalism, I had traveled from Milwaukee to Green Bay one Sunday evening to attend a fundraiser with my parents and their friends. During the silent auction, I bid on the Ron Kostelnik jersey. Throughout the evening I checked my bid and even upped it a time or two, so intent was I on securing the jersey.

Knowing that I had a long drive back to Milwaukee, Dad encouraged me to hit the road early and I left without knowing the auction’s outcome.

I called the next morning and learned that someone else had outbid me. At Christmas several months later, though, my dad pointed to one last gift hidden under the tree.

“I think that one’s for you,” he said.

I read the card, from my dad’s friend John Olson, and quickly opened the box. It was the jersey! Mr. Olson had outbid me, and then had given it to me for Christmas. The generous gift infused the jersey with such good karma that it has taken on a life of its own.

My daughter wore the jersey both times she sang the national anthem at Lambeau Field. She wore it again in 2008 when the Packers beat the Seahawks to advance in the playoffs. (My son wore the jersey the next week when the Packers played the Giants, but we don’t like to talk about that game.)

Happily, the jersey made it to a couple of Super Bowls and we look forward to packing it for a couple more.

This past season a man stopped us as my sister Kathy and I made our way into Lambeau Field. All three of us wore number 77 jerseys.

“Who are you wearing your number 77 for?” I asked him.

“Ron Kostelnik,” he said. “You?’

“Same,” I said.

Charlie wore the little toy uniform in 1991, complete with tiny shoulder pads. My brother first wore it back in 1968. Charlie is pictured here with my dad.
My sister Jenny went all out for Halloween in 1977. This is the same costume Charlie wore 14 years later.
The first time she wore this jersey to sing the national anthem, it almost hit the ground. Here Katherine is at 17 singing it again. This is the jersey I didn't win in the silent auction but, thanks to a man my kid's call Santa Claus' brother, I received it for Christmas later that year.
Our 77 jerseys topped a whole lot of layers at the Seahawks game in 2008. Gametime temperatures hovered around 28 degrees. The following week, the jerseys stretched out over even more layers with -30 wind chills.
Kathy and I were so tickled that this man said his 77 jersey represented Ron Kostelnik that I had to take a picture of the two of them. Unfortunately, I have no idea who this man is.

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