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Del City High School unveils Robert Kalsu statue

Del City High School unveiled a statue of Robert Kalsu, a former professional football player and war hero who was killed in action during the Vietnam War. Photo by Jeff Harrison

By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City Beacon

Robert Kalsu was a larger-than-life figure.

He was a standout football player at Del City High School and went on to play on the offensive line for the University of Oklahoma and later in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills.

Kalsu was also a man of character and honor. After being named the Bills rookie of the year, he gave up a promising professional career to serve his country in the Vietnam War.
On Friday afternoon, the Del City community honored the all-American hero as they unveiled a bronze statue of Kalsu inside the stadium that also bears his name.

The hero sized statue features a grinning Kalsu wearing his number 77 jersey. The brick base of the statue includes Kalsu’s story as well as the words “Commitment, Discipline, Effort, Pride and Toughness.”

Hundreds of people, including family, friends, former coaches, teammates and veterans who served alongside him, packed into the main entrance of the stadium to honor Kalsu on Vietnam Veterans Memorial Day.

More than 60 members of the Kalsu family attended the event. Bob Kalsu’s widow, Jan, was accompanied by son Bob Jr. and daughter Jill.

Retired Navy captain John Keilty, who leads Del City’s Jr. Naval ROTC, helped organize the project and was the emcee for the event.

“We must all commit ourselves to keeping Bob’s legacy of character alive,” Keilty said. “It is all of our belief that this statue will serve to remind us that character matters. And the obligation to tell his story to generations of students and athletes that pass through this great school. And to encourage and inspire our kids to do their absolute best in life.”

Steve Coleman, a former Del City teammate and classmate, was among the speakers. He recalled their efforts to name the stadium after Kalsu.

“Even back during the Vietnam era, we decided to go before Mid-Del School Board and ask that this stadium be named Robert Kalsu Stadium and it was a unanimous vote to do so,” Coleman said. “It took them about 15 seconds to unanimously decide to name this stadium after Bob.”

Legendary coach Barry Switzer was Kalsu’s offensive line coach at OU before Switzer became head coach.

“I knew immediately that Bob Kalsu was the best player we had,” Switzer said.

Switzer said Kalsu could have gotten a deferment from serving in Vietnam but did what he thought was best.

“He didn’t have to go but he did,” Switzer said. “And he gave the ultimate sacrifice.”

Mike Renner, who traveled from his home in Iowa, spoke about his service alongside Kalsu during the Vietnam War. He shared an emotional recount of July 21, 1970, when they received heavy enemy fire at the Firebase Ripcord in the A Shau Valley. Kalsu was killed in action.

“I’ve never seen an officer so caring about his men and so unselfish as he was,” Renner said about Kalsu.

Del City football coach and athletic director Robert Jones said Kalsu’s story has been inspiration for him and something he shares with his players. He said the team will start a new tradition next year and meet at the statue before every home game.

“We’re going to talk about the life of Robert Kalsu. We’ll talk about the commitment, the discipline, the effort and the pride that he showed as a man.”

Del City players then helped remove the tarp covering the statue.

Following the statue dedication, the school hosted a pinning ceremony in the Performing Arts Center for all Vietnam era veterans and family members.

Guests later watched a screening of a documentary film titled “Uncommon Character: The Legacy of James Robert Kalsu. The film was produced by former Rep. Gary Banz, his grandson and GLM3 Production.

The statue project was made possible by the Robert Kalsu Legacy Group. Several Del City alumni and community members raised money and helped design the statue.

More of the Kalsu family attended the statue unveiling ceremony Friday at Del City High School. Photo by Jeff Harrison

Former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer speaks about Robert Kalsu on Friday. Photo by Jeff Harirson

 

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