Kortas Enjoyed His Time in Pittsburgh

Ken Kortas was a journeyman defensive lineman in the National Football League who made a brief stop in Pittsburgh and is the answer to a trivia question.

Can you name the University of Louisville's first All-America football player?

Unless you are real knowledgeable in Cardinal history, the name Ken Kortas probably doesn't come to mind.

There were players before Kortas who were Little All-Americans, but Kortas in 1963 was on the big time All-American lists - Playboy, Dell Sports and Street & Smith.

Kortas, a defensive lineman and a native of Chicago, arrived at Louisville almost by accident.

"They sent me a letter," Kortas recalled. "Out of nowhere and the reason they did was there was a guy that went to my high school in Chicago who came home and saw me play and he said why don't you send this guy a letter. I basically thought I was going to end up in the Big Ten. But I visited Louisville and I found out everybody was so nice - I liked coach Camp and coach Dunn (he was a riot) and coach Wood and the people in general (Lloyd Brantley, Lloyd Redman). I said this is a nice place."

The U of L teams from 1960 through 63 had a modest amount of success under Frank Camp.

"They always called him (Camp) the quiet man," Kortas said. "But he had a temper. He was a teacher; he was coaching all the time."

In Kortas' senior season, 1963, U of L went 3-7 but he still was named an All-American.

"Les Wilson, who was the PR man there," Kortas said. "Basically I have to give him a bunch of the credit. He did a heck of a job with it. Louisville was sort of a secondary school in those days. He (Wilson) pressed and made the contacts."

Kortas was the ninth pick in the NFL Draft - the first selection of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Ironically that first Cardinal team was the best team that Kortas played on in the pros, finishing 9-3-2, but Kortas didn't enjoy his stint in St. Louis.

"In retrospect I wished I would have held out," Kortas winced. "St. Louis was not the place to go.

St. Louis traded Kortas in 1965 to the Pittsburgh Steelers for QB Terry Nofsinger and Kortas got to play for the Rooney family.

"That's as good as it gets," Kortas says. "Art (Rooney), you couldn't ask for a better guy. I fell in love with Pittsburgh. It was a lot like Chicago and I enjoyed myself there, even though we didn't win."

Pittsburgh traded Kortas to New Orleans along with RB Don Shy in 1969, but he lasted only a week there before being sent to the Chicago Bears.

The Bears finished 1-13 in 1969, but Kortas was given a great deal of credit for their one victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"When we played the Steelers I was not active," Kortas mused. "They asked me to give the scouting report for the Steelers because I had been there for awhile. Pittsburgh sports writer Pat Livingston wrote a story in the paper giving Kortas all the credit for the Bear victory. But that's how the Steelers got Terry Bradshaw. If we (Bears) didn't beat Pittsburgh there would have been no coin flip for the first draft choice - the Bears would have been 0-14. I paid Mr. Rooney back - I got him Bradshaw."

Kortas lives now in Simpsonville KY and is a businessman in Louisville. In his heart Kortas remains a Pittsburgh Steeler and still follows the fortunes of his old team.

George Von Benko

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