Joe Kulbacki ’60
Remembering Joe Kulbacki ’60
Former AFL Member and ΣAE Brother
Joseph Kulbacki ’60, a conservative author who lived on a 50-acre farm in Colden, New York, and played halfback for the Buffalo Bills in the franchise’s first American Football League game – a 27-3 loss at the New York Titans on September 11, 1960 – entered Chapter Eternal on November 26, 2012, after a nearly decade-long battle against cancer.
Joe excelled at sports in high school, and, as a running back, he set records that still stand today. He earned several football scholarships, including one to Purdue University. After graduating from Purdue in 1960 with a bachelor’s degree in industrial economics, and completing the Reserve Officers Training Corps, Joe was commissioned in the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant.
That same year, he was drafted by the Washington Redskins in the 16th round of the NFL draft and the Boston Patriots in the newly formed AFL. He didn’t suit up for either team in a game, however. Instead, Joe played 12 games for the Buffalo Bills during the team’s inaugural year in the AFL after Buffalo obtained his draft rights from the Patriots. That would be Joe’s lone season appearing in games for the Bills. Wearing number 43, he played in the first dozen of the team’s 14 games, compiling 108 total yards in 41 rushing attempts.
After the 1960 season, Joe left the AFL to fulfill his service obligation to the U.S. Army. During his service, he was on the beaches of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, mobilized during the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
He returned briefly to the Bills in 1963 before later forming his own engineering consulting company, Automation Integrators Inc., in Colden. Joe was a vintner who made his own wine and hosted many Buffalo Bills at his wine-making parties. He was also the owner of South Hill Farms – a blueberry and Christmas tree farm in Colden.
Among the many people Joe knew and enjoyed friendly associations with were Bills owner Ralph Wilson, longtime owner of the New York Yankees George Steinbrenner, and Hall of Fame NFL quarterback Bob Griese. Joe played under Steinbrenner when he was an assistant football coach at Purdue in the late 1950s. Then, in the 1960s, Joe went on to coach there while pursuing advanced academic studies at the university. He coached Griese in his freshman year for the Boilermakers.
“It’s been very comforting to me to know how truly loved and respected he was,” said Joe’s wife, Judi, who has received calls from many former Bills players expressing condolences. “They said, ‘We just remember him being such a man of integrity and honor.'”
In recent years, even while battling various forms of cancer, Joe’s concern over the political and economic progression of the United States inspired him to pen “America … A Nation That’s Lost Its Way,” a critical analysis of the nation’s leadership structure, which Joe argues is increasingly politically self-interested and weak. He also makes the case that the principles on which the country were founded have been abandoned.
Joe is survived by Judi, and four sons: Tom, Chris DeVoss, Donald, and Kevin Kaufman.