It’s not where you start, but rather where you finish.
And two of the best defensive backs in Browns history, Ernie Kellermann and Walt Sumner, will be honored Sunday for where they finished their careers, and how far they came. They will serve as the team’s honorary captains for the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
Kellermann, a product of Bedford (Ohio) Chanel High School and Miami (of Ohio) University, and Sumner had something in common besides playing the same position. They each played six seasons for the Browns, Kellerman from 1966-71 and Sumner from 1969-74. They also combined for 32 interceptions during their time in Cleveland.
Not too bad at all for two men who entered the NFL through the back door.
Kellermann was taken by Dallas Cowboys in the 12th round of the 1965 NFL Draft but never made that club. Disappointed but not dissuaded, he continued to try to find a team that would give him a second chance. With the help of his college coach, Bo Schembechler, who placed a call to head coach Blanton Collier on his behalf, he found that team in the Browns, whom he had rooted for while growing up in Cleveland. The Browns brought him to training camp in 1966 as a free agent, and he made the team.
The move paid off for the Browns, as he had 13 interceptions in his first four seasons, including a career-high six in 1968 when he tied for second on a club that advanced all the way to the NFL Championship Game.
He finished his career by spending 1972 with the Bengals and ’73 with the Buffalo Bills before retiring with 19 interceptions overall.
Now 68, Kellermann is retired and lives with his wife, Maryann, in the Cleveland suburb of Aurora.
Sumner, who was drafted in the seventh round by the Browns in 1969 out of Florida State, had a great start, too, getting 13 of his 15 interceptions in his first three seasons. His best year was 1971, when he had a team-leading five interceptions as the Browns captured their first AFC Central crown.
Sumner, 65, resides in his native Ocilla, Ga. with his wife, Sandra.
Alumni Spotlight is presented by Cuyahoga Community College Alumni & Friends Association -- Staying Connected.