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Former Packers DT Steve Okoniewski dies at 74

Trade acquisition played in 28 games over two seasons in mid-‘70s


Steve Okoniewski, who played defensive tackle for the Green Bay Packers from 1974-75, died Sunday, Feb. 25, at his home in Bellevue, Wis., just outside Green Bay.

Okoniewski was 74.

After playing at the University of Montana, Okoniewski was selected by Atlanta in the second round of the 1972 NFL Draft and projected as an offensive lineman. "Okoniewski has great strength. He's super strong, great at in-line blocking," then Atlanta scout and future Pro Football Hall of Fame general manager Bobby Beathard said at the time. "He needs to learn pass blocking because Montana didn't pass that much."

After playing in the College All-Star game and getting a late start in training camp, Okoniewski was waived by the Falcons on the final cutdown date and claimed by Buffalo. Converted into a defensive tackle, Okoniewski spent two seasons with the Bills but was deactivated after starting four of the first five games in 1973.

The Packers acquired Okoniewski on July 29, 1974, in a trade with the Bills. The Packers gave up third-year quarterback Scott Hunter, who had started 20 of 28 games in 1972-73, for running back Pete Van Valkenburg and Okoniewski.

Okoniewski played 28 games with the Packers and started 12, including 11 in 1974. He was released by the Packers on Sept. 6, 1976, and appeared in nine games with the St. Louis Cardinals over the 1976-77 seasons.

"He's not blessed with the most physical talent, but there's not a harder worker," coach Bart Starr said when he cut Okoniewski. "You'd like to be able to transplant his heart into some other people."

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