Oldest living Detroit Lions player talks about old-school football

Mike Kostiuk remembers when players were paid by the game

HAMTRAMCK, Mich. – The NFL is a lot different today from the time when Mike Kostiuk suited up for the Detroit Lions.

The 94-year-old Hamtramck native played both offensive and defensive tackle for the 1945 Lions.

"We wanted to play football. When you're in there and you're down low and you're hitting each other, you're pounding the heck out of him and he's pounding the heck out of you. One of you are getting a beating down there," Kostiuk said.

Back in those days, players were paid $20 a game. The press guide listed Kostiuk at 6 feet 2 inches tall and 220 pounds, but Kostiuk said he was actually 195 pounds.

"Today I couldn't be a water boy. We were the first Detroit team to beat the Bears twice in a season," Kostiuk said.

He was happy with the Lions when the Buffalo Bisons approached him about playing in a new league.

"I said 'No, I'm playing with the Lions now.' He said, 'We'll pay you $1,000 a game,'" Kostiuk said.

But even with that paycheck, Kostiuk quit because he was riding the bench and was too proud for that.

He joined the Hamtramck Fire Department and retired after 30 years.

He is still a fan of football, but thinks today's players need more discipline.

Kostiuk remembered the discipline handed out to a pal of his who gave up four touchdowns on his side of the line to the Green Bay Packers.

"So on a train, just like you're sitting across from me, and they walked up to him and said, 'When we hit Detroit,' this is the truth, 'When we hit Detroit, you can keep on going.' He got fired right there," Kostiuk said.

Despite all the aches and pains he endured, Kostiuk said he would do it all again.  And he would certainly not refuse if he was paid what football players are being paid today.