Walt Kieslinq spent 34 years as a player, assistant coach or head coach in the National Football League. A two-way guard who was larger, stronger, and tougher than most of his opponents, he began his storied NFL career as a true “Iron Man” with the Duluth Eskimos.
The Eskimos, led by Hall of Fame fullback Ernie Nevers, played 29 games in 1926 including 28 of them on the road. Linemen seldom make the record books, but “Big Kies,” as he was known, helped put Nevers there when the two played for the Chicago Cardinals.
On November 20, 1929, in a game against the Chicago Bears, Nevers scored six touchdowns and accounted for 40 points. Walt helped pave the way with his classic power blocking. Keisling, who was named to the NFL’s all-league team in 1929, 1930, and 1932, attended little St. Thomas College in his hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota, even though he was recruited by the larger, better-known Notre Dame. As a pro he played in five different cities.
From 1926 through 1938, Kiesling performed for Duluth, Pottsville, both Chicago teams – Cardinals and Bears, Green Bay and Pittsburgh. Although he suffered through more than his fair share of losses, Keisling did play as a member of the 1934 Bears, who went through the regular season undefeated, and the 1936 Packers, who were NFL champions.
In 1939 Keisling got his first head coaching opportunity with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who in 1940 changed their name to Steelers. He also co-coached the merged Pittsburgh-Philadelphia and Pittsburgh-Chicago Cardinals combined teams during World War II. Following the 1944 season, Keisling left the coaching ranks, only to return again in 1954 for another three-year stint with the Steelers. Although the team posted three losing seasons, it earned a reputation for rugged, hard-hitting football – much the same as its coach had earned as a player.