Monday, August 9, 2021

Dave Costa—Six Pro Teams, Five Uniform Numbers and Good Stats as Well

 By John Turney 
Costa, out of the University of Utah, by way of Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, Colorado, was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the third round of the 1963 NFL draft and the seventh round of the AFL draft by the Oakland Raiders. 

Costa was convinced to sign with the Raiders for #12,000 because Davis fed him the line "You are going to be so great they'll have to build another bridge to handle the crowds that come to see you play."

In his first game at Northeastern Costa had to play the day after a rodeo and dodge piles of cow and bullshit. Now he had to do the same in the NFL, we suppose. 

In his rookie season, Dave Costa was honorable mention All-AFL, made the AFL All-Star game, and was tied for third for the AFL Rookie of the Year award, receiving the same number of votes as future Hall of Famer Bobby Bell in both the AP and UPI ROY polls. It was a fantastic start to a good, solid career.
With Raiders, wearing #46 as a defensive tackle
He was again solid in 1964 totally 59 tackles and eight sacks but after a subpar 1965 season and during 1966 camp, the Raiders shipped Costa to the Bills for a sixth-round pick.

Defensive tackle Tom Keating had been in Buffalo in 1964 and 1965, even earning the starting job next to Tom Sestak as a rookie but was hurt and then got hurt again in 1965. In January of 1966, he was traded to the Raiders and was winning the job at right defensive tackle during Raiders camp. 

That, along with Costa not getting the kind of raises he wanted (Al Davis offered just $500 after his rookie year) caused Costa to ask for a trade.

With the Bills Costa didn't play much, backing up defensive tackles Sestak and Jim Dunaway. It was an odd place to be traded but we can only guess that Buffalo wanted to have solid depth behind their tackles, Sestak, especially had been having knee issues. We'd surmise that Costa was insurance for that.
Buffalo defensive tackles—Costa (73), Dunaway (70), and Dunaway (78), 1966
Sestak was 30 in 1966, even though he was in only in his fifth season. Regardless, Sestak was healthy and solid so for whatever reason, Costa only was n Buffalo for one season. After the year the Broncos sent a fourth-round pick to the Bills for Costa
With the Bills in 1966
In was in Denver Costa really made his lasting mark as a pro football player. He was a team captain in his first season with the Broncos and the four seasons after that. He was a Second-team All-AFL choice in 1967, 68, and 69 and was an AFL All-Star all three of those seasons as well.

Costa arrived the same year as Rich Jackson and Peter Duranko and for a short time those players, along with Paul Smith, who arrived in 1968 became a very good defensive line even great in 1970 the first year all four started together and all for were healthy. It was also the last time they were all healthy.

In 1970 it could be argued that Denver's defensive line was the best in the NFL, which is saying a lot given the Fearsome Foursome was still intact, as was Doomsay, the Purple People Eaters, and even other lines. Costa had four sacks opening day but ended with just three more but was steady as a rock versus the run.
Costa was with Denver from 1967-71
The Broncos defense was third in rushing defense and second in sacks.—
Chart Credit Pro Football Reference
Now, they were not underrated at the time, opponents knew they were a force, but in history annals, they don't seem to get much mention because they had just one full year of greatness and injuries limited their legacy to 1970 through mid-season 1971 (Rich Jackson hurt his knee at that juncture).

One of the best things to see in this era of Broncos football was how defensive line coach Stan Jones with the clear approval of Joe Collier moved his linemen around. It was something no team did more. Not even close. It happens far more these days but back then it was something that the Broncos held the franchise on.

For the most part, Jackson was the left end, Smith the left tackle, Costa the right tackle, and Pete Duranko was the right end but you could see any of those players at any of the positions seemingly without rhyme or reason, maybe just to mess with the offensive lineman's mind, maybe for matchups, we're not really sure what the full reasoning was. And the same was true when Lyle Alzado came into the picture in 1971 and this continued through 1975, long after Jackson and Costa were gone but it happened less frequently as time went on.

The unit was broken up in 1972 when Denver sent Costa to the Chargers for Eddie Ray and 1973 third-round pick and then at mid-season, with a knee that was not yet 100% sent Jackson to Cleveland—a move that incensed some Broncos players, especially Lyle Alzado. 
With Chargers in 1973
In San Diego, Costa solidified the right tackle position which has been a weak spot since 1968. That season the Chargers also acquired Deacon Jones and Lionel Aldridge to man the ends, and in 1973 they traded for Coy Bacon and played between Costa and ones the first part of the season and then at right end for the rest of 1973. 

The supposedly star-studded line did okay in 1972, especially against the run and got even got some rush from Jones and Aldridge but in 1973 they were not able to have as much success against the run, and even with Bacon, the pass rush did not improve. Really except for Bacon, the trades brought in players past their prime, even including Costa who did fairly well in 1972 but like the others dropped off in production in '73. 

The moves to bring in "stars" certainly did not work out for coach Harland Svare and that plus off-the-field issues with some of the players cost him his job.

It was clear the Chargers wanted and needed change. Jones was on the trading block, Aldridge was gone. In early September right before the season, The Chargers sent Costa the Bills for a fifth-round pick. On the same day, they sent a pick to the Packers for Bob Brown to replace Costa.

In 1974 Costa, along with Jones and Bacon plus several others were fined by commissioner Pete Rozelle for violation of the league's drug policy

In Buffalo Costa started at defensive end when the Bills were in a 4-3, but with his old Bronco line coach Stan Jones in Buffalo he swapped position with right tackle Earl Edwards quite a bit, so he was at his familiar right tackle position plenty.

When they moved to a 3-4 scheme he was not on the field, having no real fit in that kind of defense.
With Buffalo in 1974
Costa ended his pro football career in the World Football League but gave it up after ten games, not pleased with his low salary.
In 1975 Costa played with the Portland Thunder of the WFL
Costa was an intense player, solid, but not spectacular, a coach's type of player, a leader-type. He hustled, was in on quite a lot of tackles, and could get some rush from an interior line position. And as previously mentioned could move along the line and play some defensive end when asked. 

He was a four-time AFL All-Star (1963, 1967-69) and a three-time Second-team All-AFL pick (1967-69). 

At Utah, he was the WAC’s Lineman of the Year, All-WAC and honorable mention All-American as a senior, honorable mention All-Skyline as a junior.

In 1960, at Northeastern Junior College, he was a Junior College All-American (and was an Empire Conference All-Star). , 

At Saunders Trades and Technical High School (Yonkers, New York) he was on the  All-Westchester County team—as a quarterback—as well and being All-Yonkers and a junior and senior.

All-in-all a good career, one well worth remembering.



  1. Any relation to another player & teammate from that era - Paul Costa, also from the Westchester area who went on to Notre Dame & was a TE-T for the Bills from 1965-72?...

    1. good question, no relation---but yes borth six weeks apart and from similar parts of NYC--Dave was from Yonkers ---Paul was born in Port Chester

  2. I know I am beating a dead horse but its amazing all the talent that went through Denver in the 1960s. For better or worse, it seemed like the Broncos were a farm team for the Raiders and Chiefs.

    Joe Namath felt Costa gave him one of the hardest hits of his career in 1969.
    The Jets always had difficulty with the Broncos those years ...