Cardless Packer Starters of the Lombardi Era: Ron Kostelnik, Part 1

Seven starters from the Lombardi era, never had an official Topps, Fleer or Philadelphia football card: Ron Kostelnik, Norm Masters, Marv Fleming, Bill Quinlan, Hank Gremminger, Tom Brown and John Symank. The longest serving was Ron Kostelnik, so let’s honor him first. Here’s what I wrote about Ron in Green Bay Gold:

When age overtook Dave Hanner, the backup he had trained, Ron Kostelnik, was ready to take over at left defensive tackle. Kostelnik assumed the same anonymous role that Hanner had filled. Years later, teammate Dave Robinson recalled to the Milwaukee Sentinel, “The only reason why Henry [Jordan] could rush the passer and Willie [Davis] could go after the quarterbacks so hard and make all those big headlines was because they knew if there was a draw, Ron had it. He took care of all the draws. He took care of the middle. I don’t think that people other than guys who played against him and with him really understood the worth that Ron Kostelnik brought to the Green Bay Packers.”

The 6’4” 260-pound Kostelnik was a second round pick out of Cincinnati in 1961 who made the team as a rookie despite injuring his knee in training camp. Ron was a reliable reserve for three seasons, while learning his craft from Hanner and Jordan. When Jordan missed a couple of games due to injury in 1964, Kostelnik replaced him and did so well that when Jordan returned, Kostelnik was moved to the left side, and the veteran Hanner was benched. Ron remained the starter for the next five seasons, through three consecutive championships, until he was traded to Baltimore during training camp in 1969. He played one final season with the Colts and then retired.

Kostelnik described his physical approach to reporters in 1965, “You really want to crack someone as hard as you can. It’s temporary meanness. You want to lay into a ball carrier. They want to lay into you. They’d rather run over you than around you.” Within the Packers’ defense, Ron made his share of big plays, but the team’s run defense did decline after he succeeded Hanner. Of course, Davis and Jordan were aging, too, so that may have contributed to the weaker run defense. Personnel man Pat Peppler told the Journal Sentinel, “His job was unheralded, but Vince respected him as a solid performer who did his job well.” Like many of the vital cogs in that championship machine, Kostelnik was not spectacular, but did his job and did not make mistakes.

1961nurkos  1961trkostelnik2  1961frkostelnik

1962trkostelnik3  1963trkostelnik

1961 Nu-Card is colorized.

More to come in part 2.

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