Cleveland Browns: Over 16 Reasons To Be Proud to Be a Browns Fan
As a franchise, the Cleveland Browns have one of the most notable legacies in all of sports.
Sixteen Hall of Famers have been immortalized in Browns orange and white in the team's history that dates back to 1945 when Paul Brown was named Head Coach.
The hardships that have plagued the team in recent years fail to represent the true greatness that the franchise once embodied.
From losing seasons to quarterback controversies and the myriad of failed Head Coaches, the team has looked almost nothing like those of decades past.
But for the die-hards who continue to keep faith that one day the team will return to greatness, the 16-plus legends that compile this list (in order of their induction to the Hall of Fame) remain a testament to what the team once was and can be again...
Otto Graham (1965)
Quarterbacks don't get much more legendary than Otto Graham. The infamous Browns QB was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965 just ten years after his retirement in 1955.
Graham passed for 23,584 yards and 174 touchdowns in his career from 1946 to 1955 with the Cleveland Browns.
When he first came to Cleveland he had no experience in the T-formation. But coach Paul Brown never wavered from his decision to start the young man who played Tailback at Northwestern in college.
"Otto has the basic requirements of a T-quarterback: poise, ball-handling, and distinct qualities of leadership," said Paul Brown of Graham.
Brown couldn't have been more accurate. Otto Graham led the Cleveland Browns to ten division crowns and seven championships.
These titles include four straight All-American Conference Championships from 1946 to 1949 and NFL Championships in 1950, 1954, and 1955.
In the first ever NFL Championship game in 1950, Graham through four touchdown passes on the way to a 30-28 win against the Los Angeles Rams which silenced critics that questioned whether the Browns could continue to compete after the folding of the AAFC in 1949.
Graham's last career performance came in the 1955 Championship where he scored three touchdowns and also threw three touchdowns in the Browns' 56-10 pounding of the Detroit Lions.
Otto Graham walked away from the game having made his mark as probably the best quarterback to ever strap on an orange helmet for the Browns.
Paul Brown (1967)
When Paul Brown graduated from Ohio University in 1930 with a Masters Degree in Education he could have never known that one day he'd be responsible for educating and coaching some of the greatest players in the history of football.
His first coaching job was at the Naval Academy in Maryland before taking the position as Head Coach of his alma Mater, Washington High School in Massillon, OH.
In 1941, Paul Brown became Head Coach at Ohio State where in four years he accumulated a record of 18-8-1. He also had the opportunity to coach some of his future Browns players such as Dante Lavelli and Bill Willis.
Appointed to Head Coach in 1945 by founders Arthur B. McBride and Robert H. Gries (who named the franchise for its new coach), Paul Brown found himself at the start of one of the most celebrated professional coaching careers in history.
Brown led the Cleveland to four straight AAFC titles and three NFL Championships in his seasons as Head Coach from 1946 to 1962.
Brown was ever the innovator. He is credited by some for making coaching an exact science. He did things no other coach had ever tried before.
Despite his legacy, Paul Brown was fired in 1962 by the Browns' new owner Art Modell who didn't see eye to eye with Brown as a coach.
Paul Brown returned to pro football in 1967 as Head Coach of the newly-formed Cincinnati Bengals. That same year he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH.
Brown retired from coaching in 1975 after the Bengals' third playoff berth during his tenure in Cincinnati. He remained President of the organization until his death in 1991.
Paul Brown is without question the greatest coach the Cleveland Browns ever knew.
He can be remembered through his words including sayings, "When you win, say nothing. When you lose say less." He was also quoted saying, "The key to winning is poise under stress."
Marion Motley (1968)
Before there was Jim Brown there was Browns Fullback Marion Motley.
Marion Motley entered professional football with the distinction of being one of four players in 1946 to break down the league's color barrier. Others who joined Motley included teammate Bill Willis and Los Angeles Rams' players Kenny Washington and Woody Strode.
Before joining the Browns, Motley was well traveled, splitting his college football between South Carolina and Nevada and then enlisted in the Navy where he also played.
Motley finally donned a Browns uniform in 1946 and went on to become the all-time All-American Football Conference rushing champ.
After Cleveland joined the NFL in 1950, Motley became the year's top rusher and made the All-NFL team.
He was a Pro Bowler in 1951.
Upon his retirement in 1953, Motley had lifetime stats that rival even today's elite running backs. He carried the ball 828 times in his career for 4,720 yards and scored 234 touchdowns.
Jim Brown (1971)
Whether Jim Brown set out to be the greatest running back in the history of the NFL or not, he definitely succeeded in rivaling many for that label.
For nine years as Cleveland's fullback, Jim Brown was the most unstoppable man on every football field he set foot on.
Brown's athletic success began at Syracuse University where from 1954-1956 he excelled at a variety of sports including football, basketball, track and lacrosse.
As a senior in 1956, Brown was an All-American in both football and lacrosse. He led the Syracuse football team in running with 986 yards and 13 touchdowns that same year. He was also second on the team in interceptions on the defensive side of the ball.
He was third in the nation among college running backs and finished fifth in the Heisman voting.
Jim Brown was drafted by the Browns in the first round in 1957, sixth overall in the draft and went on to win rookie of the year. This was the beginning of one of the greatest careers in NFL history.
Brown won MVP honors four times in his career: 1957, 1958, 1963 and 1965.
He received first team All-American accolades eights times and started in nine Pro Bowls.
His lifetime totals include 12,312 rushing yards and 15,459 yards net.
He was the epitome of reliable as he never missed a game in nine seasons and when he retired in 1965 at the age of 30, he was still considered to be at the peak of his career.
Upon retirement, Jim Brown began a new career as a movie star. He starred in several films including "The Dirty Dozen" (1967) and "100 Rifles" (1969).
In 1971 he became the fourth Cleveland Brown to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
To this day he remains connected to the team and to Cleveland as he can often be seen roaming the sidelines at Browns' Training Camp as well as during games.
Lou Groza (1974)
Although many Browns fans remember him for his placekicking, Lou Groza always considered himself an offensive tackle who kicked simply because "he had the talent."
So prominent is his kicking fame that the Palm Beach County Sports Commission established the Lou Groza Award in 1992 to be given annually to the college placekickers who display excellence at their position.
Lou "The Toe" Groza had the greatest highlight of his kicking career when he kicked a 16-yard field goal with seconds remaining to win the in the 1950 NFL Championship against the Los Angeles Rams 30-28.
After playing under Paul Brown at Ohio State, Groza continued under Brown's leadership well into his playing days as a Cleveland Brown.
However, Groza outlived Paul Brown's tenure in Cleveland as he continued to play for the team several years after Brown's firing in 1962. He became the last remaining piece of the original 1946 team.
Lou Groza was in the NFL for 21 years during which he compiled 1,608 points and played in four AAFC and nine NFL Championships.
He was elected to the first or second team NFL eight times and the Sporting News named him the 1954 Player of the Year. He was also a nine-time Pro Bowler.
From 1946 to 1974 he missed only one season in 1960 with a back injury he received during the preseason.
When Groza returned to the Browns in 1961, he did so as the team's first 'kicking specialist.' Not wanting him to have a potential career-ending injury to his already weakened frame, management decided it was best to limit Groza's play strictly to placekicking.
Lou Groza retired at the end of the 1974 having played his entire career with the Browns and was inducted into the Hall of Fame that same year.
Dante Lavelli (1975)
Hudson High School in Hudson, Ohio will always remember Dante Lavelli as the school's football stadium bares his name as their most honored alumnus.
After only playing three games at Ohio State University, Lavelli enlisted in the U.S. Infantry before turning pro in 1946, signing with the Browns.
During his short time at OSU, Coach Paul Brown switched Lavelli from QB to End, a position that he continued to play throughout his professional career.
In order to make the Browns, Lavelli beat out four more experienced candidates and earned the nickname "Gluefingers" for his sure-handedness.
As a Brown, Lavelli soon became QB Otto Graham's favorite pass target. He went on to become the top AAFC receiver as a rookie.
He caught the game-winning touchdown pass in the 1946 Championship game and made eleven receptions in the 1950 NFL Championship against the Rams.
During his eleven year career, he played in seven championships in all.
His lifetime stats include 386 catches for 6,488 yards and 62 touchdowns.
Nineteen years after retiring, Dante Lavellie was immortalized in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1975.
Len Ford (1976)
Len Ford began his pro career in 1948 in the uniform of the Los Angeles Dons (not to be confused with the Rams who also existed during this period) of the All-American Football Conference.
While in L.A., Ford showed versatility, excelling on both offense and defense.
When the AAFC disbanded after the 1949 season, the Cleveland Browns signed Ford as a defensive end.
He became a crucial part of a Browns defense that allowed the fewest points of any NFL team for six of his seven years with the team.
Ford was the best of the best when it came to the pass rush. In fact, the Browns aligned its entire defense around him.
He was key to Cleveland's creation of the first 4-3 defensive formation.
A serious injury in 1950 almost ended his career after an opposing player hit him in the face with his elbow, breaking both of cheek bones, his nose, and knocking out several teeth.
Fortunately for Ford and the Browns, through extensive rehabilitation and plastic surgery, he was able to recover from his injuries in time to play in the NFL Championship that same year.
Len Ford's accomplishments include five All-NFL awards and four Pro Bowls. He also recovered 20 opponent fumbles in his career.
Ford ended his playing days with the Green Bay Packers in 1958 and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1976 as a Cleveland Brown.
Bill Willis (1977)
After an exceptional college career at Ohio State during which he led the Buckeyes to a National Championship in 1942 and earned All-American honors in 1943 and 1944 (the first African American to do so) Bill Willis used his quickness to earn a spot on the Browns' roster in 1946.
During a pro scrimmage, the relatively small Willis impressed Browns' coaches by overwhelming the opposing center on four consecutive plays.
At 6'2", 213 pounds, Willis was not nearly as big as other Middle Guards but there was no denying he had the skills to succeed in pro football.
He became part of a class of four players, including teammate Marion Motley, that broke down football's color barrier in 1946.
Willis was All-AAFC three times and All-NFL 1950-1953. He also appeared in three NFL Pro Bowls.
Bill Willis was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977, ensuring his rightful place in history.
Bobby Mitchell (1983)
Coming out of college at Illinois in 1958, Bobby Mitchell had his sights set on the 1960 Olympics more than the NFL. But, a $7,000 offer from Paul Brown changed that.
Bobby Mitchell was the seventh round pick for the Browns in the 1958 NFL Draft and proved to be a wise choice down the stretch.
In four years with the Browns franchise, Mitchell accumulated 958 receptions for 14,078 yards and 91 touchdowns playing wide receiver and halfback.
His quickness and speed made him a dangerous kick returner as well and returned three for touchdowns in his career.
Mitchell spent his last six seasons with the Redskins where in 1962 he was named the NFL's top receiver.
Paul Warfield (1983)
Yet another face to come out of Ohio State to play for the Browns, Paul Warfield is no exception to those who've achieved greatness at the pro level.
Warfield was an All-Big Ten halfback in 1962 and 1963 at OSU and was the Browns' first round pick in 1964 and was converted to wide receiver.
During his career, Warfield caught 427 passes for 8,565 yards and scored 85 touchdowns. His career high for receptions came as a rookie when he caught 52 passes.
His smooth, graceful style while running routes became his trademark.
In 1970, Warfield went to the Miami Dolphins where he continued to put up big numbers and in 1972 led the team to a then-NFL record 2,960 rushing yards on their way to a perfect season.
After not playing in 1975, Paul Warfield returned to the Browns in 1976 where he finished his career.
Among his accomplishments are six All-NFL awards and one of the best yards-per-catch averages on record.
Mike McCormack (1984)
Mike McCormack was a hard-nosed tackle drafted out of Kansas in 1951 by the New York Yanks football team.
He made the Pro Bowl as a rookie and then went on to serve in the U.S. Army from 1952-1953 before returning to football with the Cleveland Browns in 1954.
In the 1954 title game, McCormack stole the ball from the opposing QB to set up a key Browns touchdown early in the game. The Browns went on to win by a considerable margin.
1954 was just the tip of the iceberg of what McCormack was capable of.
The following season, he moved to right tackle where he played for eight seasons.
McCormack's enormous skill as a run-stopper and a pass-blocker made him an invaluable asset to the Browns' defense.
After retiring in 1962, he soon tried his hand at coaching. He was hired as Assistant Coach of the Washington Redskins in 1965 where he served under four different Head Coaches including former teammate Otto Graham.
In 1973, McCormack became Head Coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.
He went on to have coaching stints with the Bengals, Colts, Seahawks (where he was also president), and the expansion Carolina Panthers.
His greatest honor came in 1984 when he was inducted to the Hall of Fame just 45 minutes from the city where his career began as a player for the Browns.
Frank Gatski (1985)
Frank Gatski spent his amateur days split between Marshall University, the U.S. Infantry, and Auburn before being drafted by the Browns in 1946.
When he arrived in Cleveland, Gatski took a back seat to then-starting center Mo Scarry until 1948 when he got his shot. He didn't waste it.
Gatski anchored the Browns powerful offensive line as a strong, consistent pass blocker that QB's hated to play against.
He never missed a game in high school, college or the pros and earned four All-NFL honors.
In 1956, Gatski made his first Pro Bowl appearance as a starter.
He finished his career with the Lions in 1957 where he won his eighth career NFL Championship over his old team.
In 1985, Gatski was awarded his place in the Hall of Fame in Canton, OH.
Leroy Kelly (1994)
Leroy Kelly was drafted out of Morgan State by the Browns in 1964 in the eight round of the draft. Then-Browns running back, Jim Brown, promptly took him under his wing.
In 1966, after Jim Brown's retirement, Kelly got his chance to shine as he went on to be the NFL's top rusher in 1967 and 1968.
He was a two-time punt return champion and All-NFL five times in his career that spanned from 1964 to 1973.
His career stats include 7,274 yards rushing, 2,281 reception yards, and 90 touchdowns.
Kelly strongly favored the Browns Trap play as he was excellent running the ball up the middle.
He was as tough as they come, only missing four games in his 10-year career in Cleveland.
In 1994, Leroy Kelly took his rightful place among the NFL legends in the Hall of Fame.
Ozzie Newsome (1999)
They called him "The Wizard of Oz."
Ozzie Newsome was probably the greatest tight ends/receivers that the Browns have ever had. If fact, he is the all leader in that category and fourth among all receivers.
From his college days at Alabama to his thirteen years with the Cleveland Browns, Newsome always had golden hands when it came to catching a football.
Alabama won three Conference Titles with Newsome at wide receiver. No one doubted that the hometown boy would have no trouble dazzling cornerbacks in the NFL when the Browns drafted him in the first round in 1978.
He was an instant team leader upon joining the Browns.
Then-Head Coach Blanton Collier and his staff decided to try Newsome at tight end, a decision that worked out beautifully for Cleveland.
During his time in Cleveland, Newsome caught 662 receptions for 7,980 yards and 47 touchdowns.
He grabbed his career high for receptions, 89, in 1983. He was so pleased with this accomplishment that he did the very same thing the following year.
At one point, Newsome caught a pass in 150 consecutive games.
He was All-Pro in 1979 and 1984 and appeared in three Pro Bowls during his career.
Newsome called it quits in 1990 and nine years later took his place among other football greats in the Hall of Fame.
Joe Delamielleure (2003)
After being drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 1973, it wasn't long before Joe Delamielleure became an impact player in the NFL.
An All-American at Michigan State, Joe had all the goods necessary to succeed.
He won all rookie honors in 1973 and played a key role in anchoring the Bills "Electric Company" offensive line.
In 1980, he was traded to the Browns where he continued to be a force at right guard.
During his five years in Cleveland, Delemielleure played every game. At one point in his career, he played in 185 games straight.
From his rookie season in 1973 to his retirement in 1985, he made six Pro Bowl appearances and earned a spot on the 1970's All-Decade team.
He is best remembered for his days blocking for O.J. Simpson in Buffalo.
Delamielleure was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003.
Gene Hickerson (2007)
Strenth, speed, and toughness are just a few words that describe the man the Browns selected in 1957 as a future choice in the seventh round of the NFL Draft.
As a rookie in 1958, Gene Hickerson switched positions from tackle (his position in college at Mississippi) to guard. Coach Paul Brown made the switch to utilize his quickness and also used Hickerson as a "message" guard to relay play calls.
The change worked out well for Hickerson as he went on to be one of the top offensive linemen of the 1960's.
He was later elected to the 1960's All-Decade team.
Hickerson had the privilege of blocking for three Hall of Fame running backs in his career including Jim Brown, Bobby Mitchell, and Leroy Kelly.
Cleveland had a 1,000 yard rusher nine out of ten seasons with Hickerson.
A broken leg in the 1961 preseason opener put an end to his year and later a freak accident further aggravated the injury after a player ran into him on the sideline.
In 1962, he made a full recovery. After missing the first two games of the season, Hickerson never missed another game for the rest of his career.
During his career with the Browns, he was All-NFL five times and appeared in six consecutive Pro Bowls during the late '60s and early '70s.
Other Notable Hall of Famers
There are some former Browns who proved worthy of the Hall of Fame who did most of their best work while playing for other teams.
Doug Atkins played defensive end for the Browns from 1953-1954 and went to eight Pro Bowls in his career. He was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1982 as a Chicago Bear.
Willie Davis also played defensive end for the Browns only from 1958-1959 and was inducted in 1981 as a Packer. He never missed a game in his 12-year career.
Len Dawson (pictured left) won four NFL passing crowns and was the MVP of Super Bowl IV. He played QB for the Browns from 1960-1961. Dawson entered the Hall of Fame as a Kansas City Chief in 1987.
Henry Jordan was the Browns' fifth round pick in 1957. In 1959, he was traded to Green Bay where he became a staple at defensive tackle for the Packers for eleven years. He was inducted into 'The Hall' in 1995.
Tommy McDonald ranked sixth all-time in receptions, fourth in receiving yards and second in touchdown catches at the end of his career which he finished with the Browns in 1968. McDonald entered the Hall of Fame as a Philadelphia Eagle in 1998.
There have clearly been some legendary, great players who have graced the Cleveland Browns' roster in their history. Browns fans have a reason to be proud and it's anyone's guess whether any of today's draft picks will be tomorrow's legends.