Obituary: Vince Costello, 86, former NFL player

Friends and family last month mourned the death of Vince Costello, a former Cleveland Browns linebacker who spent most of his retired life in Leawood. His obituary, published on, is below:

Vince Costello. Photo from Porter Funeral Home

One of the great Cleveland Browns Football legends, #50, has been laid to rest. Surrounded by family who loved him dearly, Vince Costello passed away on June 23 in Overland Park, Kansas.

Vince was the son of two Italy natives, Celesta Menna and Bartolomeo Giordonno, who came to the United States by way of Ellis Island, married and Bartolomeo changed his name to William Costello. Vince grew up in Magnolia, Ohio where his three sisters, Lee, Rosie and Bea and two brothers, Mike and Nick, lived all of their lives. Vince was known for living in the moment and living life to the fullest. He was so ahead of his time, he played high school baseball at the age of 13. When he graduated high school in 1949, he was the star quarterback for an unbeaten Magnolia High School six-man team that had only been formed the year before at the urgent request to the Board of Education by Vince and his fellow Magnolia students. Many years later, Vince was inducted into the Stark County Hall of Fame.

He played football and baseball for four years at Ohio University, where, ironically, he had enrolled on a basketball scholarship and played just one season. He was known as one of those athletes who could do everything and do it well.

Vince signed a minor league contract with the Cincinnati Reds in 1953 and remained with them until he entered the military in 1956 as lieutenant and served two years in the Air Force ROTC before returning to baseball, this time for the Wausaw (Wisconsin) Lumberjacks. Vince met the love of his life, Sally Dutton, and they married and started their family while she finished college and Vince finished a Master’s Degree.

In 1957, he started playing for the Cleveland Browns Football team at age 25 and played Linebacker for 10 years. He and Sally became life long friends with many of the players on this team that went on to win the NFL Championship in 1964, coached by the highly respected Paul Brown. Vince then played Linebacker for the New York Giants and went on to coach the linebackers for four years under Paul Brown for the Cincinnati Bengals. He was later a linebacker coach for the Miami Dolphins and finally, Defensive Coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs under ex-Cleveland Brown teammate, Paul Wiggin.

After retiring from football, Vince spent the rest of his life in Kansas City, where he and Sally raised seven children and owned Costellos’ Greenhouse Restaurant. The couple made many happy memories living on a lake in Leawood, Kansas, with the sound of children’s laughter and the smell of pasta red sauce on the stove.

Although he loved living in Kansas City, his heart was in Ohio, where his beloved family, especially his sisters and brothers, and friends remembered him and his glory days with the Browns. He would make as many Ohio trips a year as he could to see these people who were so special to him. It was in Ohio in 2012, where Vince was honored with a well deserved induction into the Cleveland Browns Hall of Fame.

Vince was known as “PoPo” to 16 grand children, who adored him and the twinkle in his eye when he would play with them. He insisted on Sunday family dinners with his large family, and always instilled strong values in each of his children and grandchildren, teaching them that family was the most important thing.

Very strong in his Catholic faith, Vince had a special spot where he would sit in church each week. He was a parishioner at Cure of Ars Catholic Church in Leawood and Church of Ascension in Overland Park. From a familiar poem he would recite to his children, “….With feet to take me where I go, with eyes to see the sunset glow, with ears to hear what I would know, oh God forgive me when I whine, I’m blessed indeed, the world is mine.” The world did belong to Vince Costello and we were blessed by him.

Vince is survived by his wife, Sally Costello; sister, Lee Marino; daughter, Carol Costello, daughter Kay Dalton (David); son David Costello (Merrie); daughter Ann Fritz (Ed); daughter Sue O’Gara (Guy); daughter Mary Costello, daughter Tricia Costello and 16 grandchildren.

With deep gratitude to the following caregivers who were so kind to Vince: Nikki Castleberry, Ashanti Watkins, Cinda Waters, Robin Walker and Seth Vasquez.

Visitation will be held 6/27 6pm-8pm at Porter Funeral Homes 8535 Monrovia, Lenexa, KS 66215. Funeral services are this Friday, 10am 6/28 at Church of the Ascension 9510 W 127th St, Overland Park, KS 66213.

The family has suggested donations in lieu of flowers to be made in memory of Vince Costello to KU Alzheimer’s Disease Center if by mail: KU Endowment c/o Lindsay Hummer Mail Stop 3012, 3901 Rainbow Blvd. Kansas City, KS 66160.