Sweet as an NFL issue button

My dad, who stood 6-4 and played defensive tackle in the NFL for nine years, was a sentimental guy.

A few years after my oldest son and my parent’s oldest grandson Charlie was born, my dad spent an evening crafting. He cut the buttons off one of his NFL issue Green Bay Packer suit coats and sewed them onto a tiny red wool blazer.

Somewhat shyly, he presented the blazer to us on an ordinary day in 1990.

We loved that spiffy red blazer, a hand-me-down my mother had saved for nearly 25 years. And then I spied the shiny brass buttons with the official NFL insignia.

“Where did these buttons come from?” I asked.

“Your dad sewed them on last night,” Mom said. “He took them from his own suit coat.”

In the 1960’s, NFL players operated under a league dress code. They wore white dress shirts with black ties to road games, and each Green Bay Packer player from that era also wore either a green or gold blazer with the team’s insignia on the breast pocket and the cool NFL brass buttons down the front.

A shy kid from a tiny coal mining town in Pennsylvania, my dad understood right from the start that his NFL experience was something special and, with a prescience I both admire and treasure, he documented the whole experience. Both he and my mother saved everything.

I have his gold NFL issue blazer and I recently scanned a set of pictures he took of the team’s raucous trip home as champions of the first Super Bowl.

I also have the ring he won during that historic game, but that’s a story for another day.

When I look at those pictures of my dad and his teammates, with their tidy hair and pressed shirts, I have a message for the players of today’s era: Treasure every moment and preserve every memory.

Because some day, years from now, someone might look at something as simple as button and remember a sweet historic time and the gentle man who celebrated it.

Elijah Pitts, his wife Ruth and my mom celebrate the big Super Bowl victory with then coach Dave “Hawg” Hanner. Elijah and my dad were rookies together. Note the jackets on the men.
This is my brother Mike and me in 1967, the year the little red blazer made its début.
This is Charlie wearing the red blazer with its new buttons in 1990.
Yesterday, my five-year old niece Erin, the youngest Kostelnik grandchild, modeled the Super Bowl blazer.
Another generation wears the little red blazer.
A close up of one of those buttons.

 

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