Donald Steinbrunner's football career went unnoticed, playing just one season (1953) for the Cleveland Browns. He'd been an offensive tackle for the Browns, but a knee injury ended his NFL football career after only eight games.
However, in those eight games he was teammates with a who's who of NFL greats—Otto Graham, Len Ford, Bill Willis, Lou Groza, Doug Atkins, Marion Motley, Dante Lavelli, and others.
|Steinbrunner on special teams in 1953|
As a rookie tackle, it would seem likely that Steinbrunner's two-a-day practices would have been rather tough facing Len Ford and Doug Atkins and even George Young in those sessions—in an era where they were going full contact, not shells and shorts.
He joined the United States Air Force, serving as a navigator and also served as assistant football coach at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
When he was killed in action in Viet Nam it took decades for that to be recognized by the Pro Football Hall of Fame in its display for NFL players who died while serving in the military stating, "Some 30-plus years since Bob Kalsu’s untimely death, the Hall of Fame learned of a second pro football player, Don Steinbrunner, who died while serving his country in Vietnam".
So guys just do their jobs and don't get the glory. And you know what? That is okay. However, the Hall of Fame has a lengthy piece on him now and that's okay, as well.
|Steinbrunner in Viet Nam|
Steinbrunner was sent to Vietnam in 1966, and after he was wounded in an aerial mission he was offered a safer assignment, which he refused.
Major Steinbrunner's plane, a C-123, was shot down on July 20, 1967, over Kontum, South Vietnam during a defoliation mission, There were no survivors among the five crewmen aboard. He was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross for his valor.
★ Distinguished Flying Cross
★ Air Medal
★ Purple Heart
★ United States Aviator Badge Air Force
★ National Defense Service Medal
★ Vietnam Campaign Medal
★ Vietnam Service Medal
★ Air Force Presidential Unit Citation
★ Vietnam Gallantry Cross
★ Air Force Good Conduct Medal