That Other Name on the Wall

November 13, 2021

This is National Veterans Awareness Week.  Veterans Day last Thursday commemorated the official end of World War I… on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.  The war to end all wars it was called.  How’d that work out?
There are 31 names on the Buffalo Bills Wall of Fame.  Football heroes from Gilchrist to Kelly.  Sestak to Smith.  And then there’s number 61.  Not so much a household name.  Kalsu.  Bob Kalsu.

Dan Darragh (10) runs with the ball as Bob Kalsu (61) looks on.

He was an All-American offensive lineman at Oklahoma and an 8th round draft pick of the Buffalo Bills in 1968.  He worked his way into the starting lineup at right guard that season and was named the Bills Rookie of the Year.  Kalsu had a bright future.  

He was ROTC at Oklahoma… the reserve officer training corps.   With it was attached an obligation to serve in the military.  And while there were other options available to him… Kalsu chose to enlist in the Army.  Prior to the start of the 1969 football season, he was ordered to Vietnam.

Bob Kalsu holds his daughter Jill. Courtesy the Kalsu family via Tusla World

A gregarious teammate.  A born leader.  A dedicated family man with a new wife… a 20-month-old daughter and a baby son on the way.  With a deep sense of duty.  Only eight active professional athletes served in Vietnam.  Only one died there.  On July 21, 1970, defending a hill in Thua Thien Province, in the middle of South Vietnam, Lieutenant James Robert Kalsu was killed in the line of duty.   He was 25.  His wife Jan received word in the hospital where she had just delivered Bob’s son.

 “A Name On The Wall,” by William Nack. It is the story of Bob Kalsu, an All-America offensive lineman at Oklahoma who chose to go to Vietnam after his rookie season with the Buffalo Bills. It was originally published in the July 23, 2001 issue of SI.

This is National Veterans Awareness Week.  That name on the wall in Orchard Park.  Right beside Joe DeLamielleure.  Kalsu.  Bob Kalsu.  In case you didn’t… now you know.

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