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AP:Hall of Fame quarterback Otto Graham dies at 82


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Hall of Fame quarterback Otto Graham dies at 82


Associated Press


Otto Graham is surrounded by reminders of his Hall of Fame career with the Cleveland Browns at his home in Sarasota, Fla., in this Oct. 14, 2002 file photo.

CLEVELAND - Otto Graham, the Hall of Fame quarterback who led the Cleveland Browns to a championship game in every season he played, died Wednesday. He was 82.

Graham died in Sarasota, Fla., team spokesman Todd Stewart said.

He was taken to Sarasota Memorial Hospital earlier in the day with the same heart condition that killed actor John Ritter, said his son, Duey Graham. Graham was diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer's disease in 2001.

Nicknamed "Automatic Otto," Graham never missed a game as a pro while passing for 23,584 yards and 174 touchdowns. He finished his career with an astounding 105-17-4 regular-season record.

He took coach Paul Brown's teams to the title game in each season from 1946-55. With Graham as their quarterback, the Browns won four championships in the old All-America Football Conference and three NFL titles.

"The Cleveland Browns and the entire sports world have suffered a terrible loss," Browns president Carmen Policy said in a statement.

"He established a performance standard at the quarterback position that today's stars are often measured against, and his significant on and off the field contributions impacted the lives of millions."

Graham was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965, and the Browns retired his uniform No. 14.

"The test of a quarterback is where his team finishes," Brown once said. "By that standard, Otto Graham was the best of all time."

In 1994, Graham was named to the NFL's 75th anniversary team, joining quarterbacks Sammy Baugh, Johnny Unitas and Joe Montana on the list of all-time greats.

After leading the Browns to four AAFC championships and being named the league's MVP three times, Graham and the Browns moved into the NFL in 1950.

They debuted in Philadelphia against the defending champion Eagles, and Graham's first pass in the NFL went for a touchdown. The Browns stunned the sports world with a 30-20 win.

Cleveland went 12-2 during the regular season and then defeated the Los Angeles Rams, who had defected from Cleveland after winning the 1945 title.

The Browns lost in the NFL title game the next three years, before winning the 1954 championship behind Graham, who ran for three TDs and threw three more in Cleveland's 56-10 rout of the Detroit Lions.

Following the game, Graham announced he was retiring. But he was talked into making a comeback on the eve of the 1955 season opener and led the Browns to yet another title.

In his final game, the 33-year-old Graham threw two TD passes and ran for two more as the Browns beat the Rams 38-14.

Graham made history as the first player to wear a face mask after being viciously elbowed in the face on a late hit by San Francisco linebacker Art Michalik on Nov. 15, 1953, at old Cleveland Stadium. Graham returned with plastic wrapped around his helmet to protect his mouth.

"That was my real claim to fame right there," Graham said. "I had this big gash on my mouth and they gave me 15 stitches, but I wanted to play."

After returning, Graham completed 9 of 10 passes in the second half to lead Cleveland to a 23-20 comeback victory.

Graham, who wore No. 60 earlier in his career, took great pride in his many career records and that they all came with the same team - his beloved Browns.

"How many players stay with the same team for 10 years these days? It's a different time, a different game," he said on a visit to Browns Stadium in 2002.

Otto Everett Graham Jr. began setting records on the first day of his life in Waukegan, Ill. He weighed 14 pounds, 12 ounces at birth - the state record for largest male.

The son of parents who were both music teachers, Graham learned the piano, violin, cornet and became Illinois state champion in the French horn at age 16 - when he also led his basketball conference in scoring.

As a senior, he was named all-state in basketball and football and scored 20 points in a stunning upset of Dundee, ending that school's three-year, 44-game basketball winning streak.

Graham went to Northwestern on a basketball scholarship and played intramural football, leading his team to a fraternity championship. Wildcats football coach Lynn "Pappy" Waldorf noticed the freshman and invited him to a spring tryout.

Despite missing one season with knee surgery, Graham led Northwestern to two upset wins over powerful Ohio State, then coached by Paul Brown.

He was an All-America selection in both basketball and football in 1943 when he finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting won by Notre Dame's Angelo Bertelli.

After his discharge from the Navy, Graham signed with Cleveland's new team formed by his old adversary, Brown.

"I guess I had impressed him," Graham recalled nearly 60 years later. "He gave me the highest contract on the team in 1946, a whopping $7,500. Going to Cleveland to work with Paul was the best move of my life. I didn't always love him, but he ran the show and taught us the basics of everything."

Graham also won a pro basketball title as a member of the 1946 Rochester Royals in the National Basketball League.

In 1959, on the recommendation of longtime friend George Steinbrenner, Graham became athletic director and football coach at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. He guided the club to an undefeated season in 1963, but lost in the Tangerine Bowl to Western Kentucky.

During that time, he was appointed a reserve commander by President Kennedy, and later a captain. He also was named to the President's Council on Physical Fitness.

He left the Coast Guard to become general manager and coach of the Washington Redskins in 1966.

His teams featured Hall of Fame quarterback Sonny Jurgensen, who shattered league passing marks, but struggled on defense. He compiled just a 17-22-3 record and was replaced by Vince Lombardi in 1969.

Graham returned to the Coast Guard and was the Academy's athletic director until his retirement in 1985.

He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Beverly, three children, Duey, Sandy and Dave, two foster daughters, 16 grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

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They debuted in Philadelphia against the defending champion Eagles, and Graham's first pass in the NFL went for a touchdown. The Browns stunned the sports world with a 30-20 win.

Cleveland went 12-2 during the regular season and then defeated the Los Angeles Rams, who had defected from Cleveland after winning the 1945 title.

The guy who wrote this story Tom Withers, has better check his facts.

The Browns won that 1st NFL game 35-10, not 30-20, and they could only finish 10-2 in the 1950 regular season since they only played 12 games If you count the playoff they had to play against the Giants because they both finished 10-2, and the NFL Title game, THEN they would be 12-2, but not in the regular season.

It's all right here:


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