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This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Justin Strzelczyk

(Born August 18, 1968) -- Not all of the stories here have happy endings. Justin Strzelczyk is remembered in part for all the wrong reasons.

Strzelczyk grew up in West Seneca; his father Connie was a 6-foot-4 basketball player at Montana State. Justin grew up playing every sport around, and he seemed to be good at all of them. He was a basketball star at West Seneca West.

Strzelczyk moved on to play football at the University of Maine. He was a free spirit, but played well enough to make the East-West Shrine Game. Strzelczyk impressed Steelers coach Chuck Noll and was picked in the 11th round of the 1990 draft.

He beat the odds and played at offensive line for Pittsburgh through 1998. In fact, he started about half of the games in his career and played every offensive line position except center.

Strzelczyk retired in 1999 and had a variety of problems with authorities. He also showed signs of mental problems. In 2004, he died in a car crash in Herkimer. An autopsy revealed signs of brain damage caused by football injuries, starting a medical discussion on the issue that continues until this day.

--- Budd Bailey


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About Sports, Ink

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey has served in a variety of roles in Buffalo sports in the past 35 years, including reporter, talk-show host, baseball announcer, public relations staffer and author. He covers the Bandits and running for The News when not working as an editor.