Ode to Jerry O

We at Shout! have felt a kinship with Jerry Ostroski, who announced his retirement Tuesday.

When the publication was born in 1991, Jim Kelly, Andre Reed, Bruce Smith, Thurman Thomas, Kent Hull et al. already were established with the Bills. John Fina came in the next year, but he wasn't one to get close to anybody.

Then during the 1993 season, there arrived a roly-poly, bowlegged, high-effort offensive lineman on the practice squad. The Bills already had Glenn Parker and John Davis at guard, and hardly needed Jerry Ostroski. Two other NFL teams hadn't; they both had released the Chiefs' 10th-round draft pick in 1992.

Because our function is different from the daily newspapers that tend to look down their noses at practice-squad players, we actually interviewed Ostroski and got to know him a little bit.

The next year, he stayed on the practice squad until injuries put him on the 53-man roster and on the field for a December game at Miami. That year we had launched Shout! Radio on a Rochester station, and one of our first guests on the phone was Jerry Ostroski.

After that, aside for some silliness of alternating him with Corbin Lacina, it would have taken a broken leg to get Ostroski out of the starting lineup. Unfortunately, that's exactly what he had. And showing his blue-collar Pennsylvania personality, Jerry O came back almost faster than humanly possible. Too fast, as it turned out. And as a result, his right leg still wasn't right, and he underwent surgery in June.

A month later, he was in training camp, but not really training. And he confided in Shout! some of his doubts and fears that he could come back. His career ended, sadly, with a whimper.

So he won't have his $1.75 million salary this year. It's doubtful that he needs it. After all, how much of his previous seven-figure salaries can he spend fishin' and huntin' and truckin' back in his adopted state of Oklahoma?

He might have been a bit weepy at his retirement announcement. But shed no tears for Jerry Ostroski. His NFL life exceeded even his own expectations. Now he has a whole other life to live with his family. Not many of us can say that.


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