A couple of corners of local offices have seen some distinctive decorations lately, honoring the memory of a giant of professional football.
The Pittsburgh Steelers recently enshrined Ernie Stautner in the team’s new Hall of Honor. His family, including his wife, Jill, brought some of the memorabilia home, including a metal football engraved with Stautner’s name, number and playing dates.
Stautner played when pro football was working its way from out of the shadows of the college game. Players generally played both offense and defense, and yes, they were tough.
They had to be.
Stautner played his entire 14-year pro career with the Steelers, from 1950 through 1963. Stautner, a tackle, was a stalwart on a Steelers team without many stars, but he was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1969, his first year of eligibility.
First number retired
Stautner’s jersey number, 70, was the first number retired by the team. It was the Steelers’ only retired number until the team retired “Mean” Joe Greene’s No. 75 in 2015.
Stautner went on to a long career as a coach. He was the Dallas Cowboys’ defensive coordinator for 25 years and helped the team win two championships. He also coached for the Steelers, Washington Redskins and Denver Broncos in the NFL and was the head coach of the Dallas Texans of an arena league and the Frankfurt Galaxy of the short-lived NFL Europe league.
The Stautners bought their first home in the Vail Valley in 1989 and spent a lot of time in the area. Ernie and Jill Stautner were married on Vail Mountain by Vail Municipal Judge Buck Allen. Ernie died in 2006.
Jill works in the town of Vail Human Resources Department. She and part of the family went to Pittsburgh for the Hall of Honor ceremony in November.
Jill was thrilled to attend, and even more thrilled to have a jersey, and a team jacket embroidered with Ernie’s name and number.
The gear only spent a few days at Vail’s town hall. A family member works on-mountain at Vail and took it there for a few days.
“There are a lot of Steelers fans (on the mountain),” Jill Stautner said.
The gear, though, will live at the Stautners’ home. That’s where it belongs.