Roger Zatkoff, who won Rose Bowl at UM, NFL title with Lions, dies at 90

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Roger Zatkoff, a linebacker who won a Rose Bowl at the University of Michigan and later a world championship with the Detroit Lions, has died.

Zatkoff died at his home in Clawson, Nov. 4, according to his obituary. He was 90.

Zatkoff, a Hamtramck native, played for the Lions in 1957-58, and was part of the Lions' last championship team in 1957. He was one of the remaining surviving members of that championship team. He retired after the 1958 season to focus on business ventures.

Roger Zatkoff played for the University of Michigan and Detroit Lions.

He was first-team All-Pro twice in the NFL, during his stint with the Green Bay Packers from 1953-56. He made the Pro Bowl in three of those four seasons.

In April 1957, Zatkoff was traded to the Cleveland Browns, and spun off to his hometown Lions for Lew Carpenter, Detroit's leading rusher, and two future draft picks. He played 24 games with Detroit and recovered two fumbles during the 1958 season.

Before his pro career, Zatkoff accepted a scholarship from Michigan, arriving on campus in 1949. He was a three-time letter winner, played for the 1950 Big Ten championship team that beat California in the 1951 Rose Bowl winners and was named All-Big Team in 1952. Michigan continues to hand out an annual award to the team's best linebacker, named after Zatkoff. He also played offensive tackle at Michigan.

He completed his physical education degree in 1964, after his pro career. According to his obituary, his former coach, Benny Ooesterbaan, convinced him to go back and get his degree.

In 1985, Zatkoff was inducted into Michigan's Hall of Honor.

In business, Zatkoff and wife Elaine launched Zatkoff Seals & Packing in 1959 out of their home in Redford Township. They sold O-Rings, getting cheap (or free) labor from their six kids. The company today is run by the family's second and third generations, and has more than 200 employees across the country. The business helped fund scholarships for Michigan students, and funded or partially funded nearly 200 of them, and remained active in Michigan alum ventures as president of the University of Michigan Club of Greater Detroit in 1967. He later was awarded the association's Distinguished Alumni Service Award and National Alumni Distinguished Service Award.

Zatkoff retired in 1999, spending his later years playing much golf at historic Oakland Hills Country Club.

Zatkoff is survived by four of his six children, Denise, Karen, David and Gary, as well as 11 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren. Elaine Zatkoff, Roger's wife of 69 years, died in November 2020 at the age of 89. Two of Zatkoff's children, Sandra and Brian, preceded him in death.

A funeral mass is scheduled for Dec. 11 at Holy Name Catholic Church in Birmingham. In lieu of flowers, the family is suggesting donations to the Hamtramck Parks Conservancy to help fund a park in Roger and Elaine's honor. The park is close to Elaine's childhood home. Roger played football at Hamtramck High.

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Twitter: @tonypaul1984