Unfortunately, I'm writing about a melancholy topic this morning. A former Montana Grizzly football star passed away yesterday (February 26) according to the University of Montana Griz Football social media pages. Former All-American, 2nd-round NFL draft pick and Montana Football Hall of Famer Steve Okoniewski passed away this week.

Before his NFL career, Okoniewski divided his collegiate career between Montana and the University of Washington. His two careers were vastly different. Okoniewski played on the offensive line in college and made the switch to the defensive line in his professional career.

The Montana Football Hall of Fame honored Okoniewski in 2021 by inducting him into Montana immortality. During an interview at the 2021 induction ceremony, Okoniewski shared his thoughts on his time with the Griz.

"We had some pretty decent players. Barry Darrow (another fellow Montana Football Hall of Famer), Willie Postler ended up playing in Canada and some good running backs. That was sort of a run-orientated game and we ran the ball a lot," said Okoniewski.

Reflecting on his time in Missoula, Okoniewski's biggest takeaway was his love for the Treasure State.

"Well I just love going to school in Montana. It was a big transformation from the Seattle area at the University of Washington... couldn't pick a better school to go to."

Related: Griz Coaching Legend Passes Away Earlier This Year

Okoniewski spent his 6 NFL seasons, from 1972-1977, with three different teams - the Buffalo Bills, Green Bay Packers and St. Louis Cardinals. That doesn't include the team that drafted him either - the Atlanta Falcons. The Bremerton, Washington native played in 52 games recovering two fumbles and recording 4 sacks, according to Pro Football Reference. In a posthumous write-up of Okoniewski, the Green Bay Packers website posted a historic quote from legendary Packers quarterback and coach at the time Bart Starr.

"He's not blessed with the most physical talent, but there's not a harder worker... You'd like to be able to transplant his heart into some other people." - Starr on Okoniewski via packers.com

According to his Wikipedia page, Okoniewski was the principal at Luxemburg-Casco High School located in the Green Bay, Wisconsin area.

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Gallery Credit: Stryker

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