On Memorial Day weekend, we reflect on the sacrifices others made fighting for our liberty. Take a moment and reflect on the sacrifice made by Bob Kalsu, an offensive linemen who began his military career shortly after finishing his rookie season with the Buffalo Bills. While attending Oklahoma, Kalsu was an All-American tackle, on a 10-1 team that won the Orange Bowl, and he participated in ROTC. An eighth-round draft choice (the Bills were in the 10-team American Football League) he played in every game as a rookie, ending the season as a starter and being named the rookie-of-the-year for the Bills. A few months later in March 1969, he received his call of duty. Unlike many professional athletes that were draft eligible or with ROTC military commitments, Kalsu did not seek the help to arrange for an assignment in the reserves.
“I did not know that he was called up until we got back to training camp in 1969,” said fellow Bills Guard Billy Shaw to Buffalobills.com. “As we left in ’68 after the season you never think that you would never see a teammate again.”
His football career wasn’t the only thing that Kalsu was leaving behind — he was married and had a 10-month old daughter. His son Bob Jr. reflected on that in a Grantland.com story.
“The realness of my father for me came later in life, becoming a father myself and understanding the conflict that had to be present for my dad, knowing that he was leaving a young family behind to live up to his obligation,” said Bob Jr. “How hard of a decision it had to have been.”
Kalsu was killed in action on July 21, 1970. He was mortally wounded by enemy mortar fire, and was the only active professional football player to die in combat in Vietnam. He was 25 years-old. Two days after his father’s death, Bob Jr. would be born in Oklahoma City.
“He had the potential to be a really good player,” said Shaw. “To be associated with somebody that made that major sacrifice and eventually the ultimate sacrifice, giving his life, there is a sense of gratitude for what he did, and I’m really proud to have at least known him for a short period of time.”
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