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The NFL Draft exists because of a Minnesota Football star

The Philadelphia Eagles were so mad about missing out on a Minnesota legend in 1935 that they demanded the NFL institute the draft in 1936.

Minnesota Historical Society

With the NFL draft heading back to Philadelphia (where the first draft was held in 1936), I thought it would be cool to talk about 1935 and the Minnesota Gophers full back that made the invention of the draft necessary.

Stan Kostka, Minnesota Gopher, 1934
Minnesota Historical Society

Stanislaus Kostka was born in South St Paul to Polish immigrants on July 12, 1912. The six foot tall 220 pound, blonde, fullback initially played at Oregon but transferred home to Minnesota for his Sophomore year. Kostka had a monster college career. In his first game as a Gopher Stan scored 4 touchdowns in the first half. Over his 3 seasons in Dinkytown he averaged 6.8 yards per carry. After going undefeated in 1934, Kostka’s junior year, the Big Ten announced that Stan had used all of his eligibility. The eligibility committee had decided to retroactively count his year on the freshman football team at Oregon. Despite Bernie Bierman’s protests in the offseason, Stan had no choice but to turn pro.

Stan scoring on North Dakota, September 29, 1934.
Minnesota Historical Society

As soon as the end of Stan’s college career was announced each NFL franchise contacted the Minnesota Golden Gophers star. All nine teams in the NFL attempted to sign Stan. Rumors spread that various teams were close to signing Kostka, but the two teams with the most resources to throw at him were the Brooklyn Dodgers (the football team), and the Philadelphia Eagles. Kostka had an interesting negotiating tactic, "A team would send me a wire and say they'd give me $3,500," he recalls. "I'd send a wire back and say Green Bay or the Chicago Bears said they'd give me $4,000. I kept that up".

While he was a free agent, Stan kept busy in the winter of 1934 and into the summer of 1935. He unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Inver Grove Heights, MN. While his political career didn’t take off, he had some success playing baseball in Minnesota. Stan helped the Gophers win a Big Ten title and then signed with the St Paul Saints to play a little professional baseball. Finally after 9 months of free agency with various NFL teams in pursuit, Stan signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers on August 25th, 1935.

Manager Dave Driscoll of the NFL Brooklyn Dodgers sent his son Dave Jr to South St. Paul to negotiate. The Dodgers won the Stanislaus sweepstakes with an offer of a $500 signing bonus an $5000 a year. This amount made Kostka the highest paid player in the league.

As a response to the bidding war for Stan Kostka the NFL instituted a draft in 1936. The Philadelphia Eagles were so angry about missing out on Kostka that they convinced the NFL of the need for the draft. Instead of letting players go to the highest bidder the draft would level the playing field by granting the worst team from the previous year the first pick. Of course it was convenient for the Eagles that they were the worst team in 1935 and would get the first pick in the inaugural 1936 NFL. The SB Nation Mothership did a fun video about how well that first pick in the 1936 draft worked out for the Eagles.

Unfortunately for Stan his NFL career was a bust. While he was paid an enormous sum his offensive line made less than $150 per game. As a result Koskta was knocked out of so many games that he only played one season of professional football. He ended up coaching several seasons at North Dakota State and later served as a Lieutenant in the Navy during World War II.