Don Chelf, a lineman on the first team of the Buffalo Bills American Football League in 1960, died in Tampa, Florida on July 16th. He was 87 years old.
Despite his ties to the Bills, Chelf was better known locally as a longtime coach and physical education teacher in Buffalo Public Schools.
"He was really a coach and a career teacher," said his wife, Suzanne.
Lung cancer was diagnosed at Chelf in January. He had an attack on July 13 and fell into a coma. He died early Tuesday morning.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by his son Brett, his daughter Beth and four grandchildren.
Chelf, who played for coach Forrest Evashevski at Iowa (1951-1953), was 27 when he decided to return to football as a player and to try them. 1960 Bills of the new AFL.
He was enlisted by the NFL Colts in Baltimore in 1954. After years in the Air Force, he reported to the Colts in 1958, but left to become an assistant football coach in the United States. State of North Dakota. He then became an assistant coach of Marv Levy at the University of New Mexico for two seasons. Soon, however, he started playing again.
"They started the AFL and I decided to come back to play," he told Buffalo News in an interview in 1995.
In addition to football, Chelf and two other original Bills, quarterbacks Tommy O'Connell and Richie Lucas, have embarked on the creation of a men's clothing store, O'Connell, Lucas & Chelf, on Main Street near University of Buffalo Campus. The haberdashery is still operating under different owners.
Chelf played 28 games for Buffalo at the right guard and the right tackle in two seasons, starting the 14 games in 1960. Knee problems put an end to his day at the game, but not his quest for a career. Teacher and coach.
A native of West Liberty, Iowa, Chelf was away from Buffalo for a while, but came back as a teacher and coach.
During the five seasons, he was an assistant football coach with Nick Mogavero at Bennett in the 1960s.
He returned to New Mexico as a coach, but returned to Buffalo in 1969 to teach physical education.
In 1980, he moved to McKinley High, where he coached football, tennis and women's basketball.
His 1989 Macks competed in the Harvard Cup championship game, their first participation in the Thanksgiving Day classic since 1946.
In 1994, McKinley tied Riverside to the championship game and beat Riverside the following year, the last defeat of Chelf, before retiring after 50 years of football.
Although it was high school, Chelf took his training seriously.
"I'm so stuck and half sick with butterflies," he told The News. "I watch the movies and track the other team. I'm really happy when it's over. I'm going to sleep for a week when it's over. "
Chelf has had success in coaching the McKinley women's basketball team. His teams have lost only 14 games in 13 years, have won the league title five times and qualified for the semifinals of the national tournament in 1986.
Chelf played in Iowa during his football revival under Evashevski, who succeeded 1952.
The Hawkeyes tied the impressive Notre Dame, 14-14, in the final game against Chelf to end a 5-3-1 season.
As a left guard, he played alongside two of Iowa's top players, center Jerry Hilgenberg and right guard Calvin Jones, twice All-American.
Chelf, 6 feet 3 inches, 215 pounds, was a capable player.
He played in the East-West Shrine game in San Francisco and in the Senior Bowl, the two most prestigious star-studding Universities in the playoffs at the time.
After retiring from McKinley at the end of the 1995-1996 school year, Chelf moved to Florida in 1997 and became a staunch supporter of the Tampa Bay Buca. He played golf for his spare time as long as he could.
As for his career as a teacher and coach, Chelf has never regretted his choice.
"I would do everything," he told The News in this interview 24 years ago.