Walt Patulski

Walt Patulski
No. 85, 74
Position: Defensive end
Personal information
Date of birth: (1950-02-03) February 3, 1950
Place of birth: Fulton, New York
Height: 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m)
Weight: 259 lb (117 kg)
Career information
High school: Syracuse (NY) Christian Brothers
College: Notre Dame
NFL Draft: 1972 / Round: 1 / Pick: 1
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Player stats at NFL.com
Player stats at PFR

Walter George Patulski (born February 3, 1950) is a former American football defensive end at the University of Notre Dame and the National Football League.

High school

Patulski was a star athlete at Christian Brothers Academy in Syracuse, New York, where he was a three-year letterman in football, basketball, and track and field. In his senior season in 1967, the 6-foot-5 fullback scored 140 points and led the Brothers to a 7-1 record. He was All-City in football and basketball. A High School All-American, he received over 60 scholarship offers to play football.[1]

In 1991, Patulski was voted to the Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame for his activities as a high school athlete.[2]

College career

At the University of Notre Dame, Patulski was converted into a defensive end. He was an All-American in 1971, and he won the 1971 Lombardi Award, which is given to college football's best lineman. A Fighting Irish captain, he finished ninth in that year’s Heisman Trophy balloting. Selected the Nation's Lineman of the Year by UPI and Gridiron Magazine in 1971. Patulski was named to Football News sophomore All-America squad in 1969 and was an honorable mention All-American in 1970.[3]

Started every game in his collegiate career, and totaled 186 tackles, 40 for losses; broke up 10 passes; recovered five fumbles and returned one blocked punt 12 yards. In his final football season at Notre Dame, 1971, he was the team defensive MVP. Patulski made 74 tackles, 22 more than his total for the 1970 season. Seventeen of those stops resulted losses for the opposing team. Patulski also broke up six passes, recovered one fumble.[4] The 1969-1971 Irish rushing defenses and total defenses were ranked in the nation's top six all three years and its scoring defense was in the top ten in 1970 and 1971 and complied a record of 25-4-1 over those three seasons while Patulski was a starter.[5]

He was awarded the game ball for his performance in the Irish initial 1971 contest against Northwestern and was acclaimed as national lineman of the week following the North Carolina game. His play versus Michigan State prompted the head coach Duffy Dougherty to hail him as Notre Dame's "finest defender".

Patulski was later named to Notre Dame's All-Century team. He played in the 1971 Cotton Bowl Classic and the Hula Bowl. In the Hula Bowl he won the Defensive Lineman of the Game award. In the summer of 1972, Patulski played in the College All-Star game, in Chicago, IL.[6] Patulski was lauded by one team as "(T)he best we've seen for many years." All but unstoppable on the pass rush, he dazzled the experts with his "amazing agility and lateral mobility."[7]

1971 Heisman Voting

1stPat Sullivan, Auburn, Sr., QB, 1,597 Points

2ndEd Marinaro, Cornell, Sr., RB, 1,445 Points
3rdGreg Pruitt, Oklahoma, Jr., RB, 586 Points
4thJohnny Musso, Alabama, Sr., RB, 365 Points
5thLydell Mitchell, Penn State, Sr., RB, 251 Points
6thJack Mildren, Oklahoma, Sr., QB, 208 Points
7thJerry Tagge, Nebraska, Sr., QB, 168 Points
8thChuck Ealey, Toledo, Sr., QB, 137 Points
9thWalt Patulski, Notre Dame, Sr., DE, 121 Points
10thEric Allen, Michigan State, Sr., RB, 109 Points

Pro career

Patulski was drafted by the Buffalo Bills with the first overall pick of the 1972 NFL Draft. He was the last Notre Dame player to be drafted #1 overall. His size and speed were among the reasons he was highly touted: At 6'6" and 250 pounds, he could run the 40 in 4.9 seconds.

As a rookie, led the Bills in sacks with 5. In 1973 the Bills improved to a 9-5 record after going 4-9-1 in his rookie season of 1972. Patulski recorded 7 sacks, which was second on the team and was voted AP NFL Defensive Player of the Week November 28, 1973, after week eleven. In 1974, the Bills recorded another 9-5 record and made the playoffs for the first time in eight years as Patulski recorded 5-1/2 sacks. The Bills were 8-6 his third season, but did not advance to the AFC playoffs. He recorded only 4 sacks, a career low, however, 2 came in a game against the St. Louis Cardinals offensive line, who gave up only 8 sacks in 1975. Patulski lined up against St. Louis all-pro and Pro Football Hall of Fame offensive tackle Dan Dierdorf, and had a spectacular game. Patulski harassed Hart all day and was one of the reasons the Cards were held to just 54 yards on the ground.[8] He played 4 years (1972–75) with the Bills, and then he was traded to the Cardinals for a second-round draft pick. And played one year with the St. Louis Cardinals (1977). He then suffered career-ending knee injury.

However, Patulski's career was considered unsuccessful. In fact, ESPN ranked him as the 27th biggest draft bust of all-time on April 18, 2008.[9]


Walt is a recipient of the Key to Syracuse (New York) for his distinguished community service. He served for six years as Commissioner of the Syracuse Board of Education, and has also been a board member of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. He has also recently been guest speaker at the National Football Foundation.

Appointed later elected, Commissioner of Education, Syracuse School District, 1980.

To be honored June 19, 2014 with his induction into the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame in Troy, Michigan.

Patulski has two daughters, Wallis and Emily. Wallis is a graduate of George Washington University. Emily graduated from Boston University where she majored in psychology.[10][11]

In September 2016, Bills coach Rex Ryan used Patulski's name as an alias when he posed as a reporter for The Buffalo News at a press conference for New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. The practical joke led the News to commission a guest column from the real Patulski following the Bills' win over the Patriots on October 2.[12] The News then profiled Patulski a month later, in which his relatively disappointing career was largely blamed on two factors: he was in an unusually weak draft class, and his quiet personality clashed with the style of Bills coach Lou Saban. Patulski never spoke to Saban again after his football career ended, despite the opportunities to do so. [13]


  1. Syracuse Hall Of Fame.com
  2. ibid
  3. University of Notre Dame website
  4. ibid
  5. Notre Dame Media Guide
  6. Walt Patulski bio
  7. Time magazine website
  8. Felser, Larry (1994-11-24). "'75 Bills Showed Uncanny Appetite On Thanksgiving". Buffalo News.
  9. ESPN.com
  10. Buffalo Bills.com
  11. Walt Patulski Homepage
  12. Patulski, Walt (October 2, 2016). Bills have the leadership to make things happen. The Buffalo News. Retrieved October 3, 2016.
  13. Graham, Tim (November 19, 2016). After 40 years in the NFL darkness, Walt Patulski explains how it all went wrong. The Buffalo News. Retrieved November 19, 2016.

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