Former Browns defensive backs Ron Bolton and Clinton Burrell, who will serve as honorary captains for the team today, were key ingredients in making the 1980 Kardiac Kids one of the most exciting and memorable clubs in franchise history.
Bolton, a Browns cornerback for seven seasons, 1976-82, led the team with six interceptions in 1980. Burrell, who also played cornerback that year, was second with five. They accounted for exactly half of the team’s 22 interceptions. No one else had more than two.
With Bolton and Burrell helping to lead the way, the defense did its part in complementing a high-powered offense as the 1980 Browns, with 13 of their 16 games not being decided until the last two minutes, went 11-5, captured their first AFC Central championship in nine years.
Bolton made one of the biggest defensive plays of the season in the 27-24 division title-clinching win over the Cincinnati Bengals in the regular-season finale. He tackled wide receiver Steve Kreider at the Cleveland 14 after a pass reception and the Bengals, who were out of timeouts, could not get to the line of scrimmage in time to run another play before time expired.
Then, in that 14-12 divisional playoff loss to the Oakland Raiders two weeks later, Bolton scored the first points of the game and the Browns’ only touchdown with a 42-yard interception return of a Jim Plunkett pass in the second quarter.
Bolton was an accomplished player by the time he arrived from New England in a 1976 trade, having had a combined total of 18 interceptions the previous three seasons with the Patriots. He became a full-time starter with the Browns in 1979 after Clarence Scott was switched to strong safety and had his best season with the club the following year. He had 17 interceptions overall with the Browns, and 35 in his 11-year NFL career.
Now 62, Bolton resides in Chesapeake, Va.
Burrell really bailed out the Browns in 1980 and might have been their biggest surprise. Taken in the sixth round of the 1979 NFL Draft as a safety, the Louisiana State product played there as a backup as a rookie and then was moved to cornerback in 1980 when Lawrence Johnson fractured his shoulder in the second game. Despite the tough transition, Burrell played like a veteran who had been at cornerback his whole career. He then moved back to safety in 1981 and started there for three years before retiring following the 1984 season.
Burrell, who is now 56, lives in Baker, La.
Alumni Spotlight is presented by Cuyahoga Community College Alumni & Friends Association -- Staying Connected.