BEREA -- Members of the Cleveland Browns, past and present, were on hand at Frederick Roehm Middle School for a football field dedication in honor of one of the team’s 16 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Tuesday evening.
Browns Legends Doug Dieken and Kevin Mack joined several current members of the team, including wide receiver
“It means a lot because Lou Groza symbolized what the Browns are all about, not only in the tenure he had here, but the way he handled himself, not only on the field -- a Hall of Famer as an offensive lineman and as a kicker -- but as a person,” Dieken said. “Lou was a guy willing to give back and he never turned down an autograph. He would engage people rather than people engaging him.”
Through the partnership between the Browns, Berea City School District, the City of Berea and Lou Groza Football League, the new field was constructed and features Groza’s helmet and famed No. 76 painted on the side of the helmet on the 50-yard line.
The Lou Groza Field project was made possible in part through a $250,000 grant contributed by the Cleveland Browns, as part of the NFL Youth Football Fund, which was created in 1998 by the NFL and NFL Players Association.
Following the dedication, which included speeches from one of Groza’s sons, Judd, as well as Berea mayor Cyril Kleem, the Browns held a Gatorade Jr. Training Camp where their players interacted with and guided the young athletes from the Lou Groza Football League.
“I’m having a whole lot of fun out here,” said Bademosi. “I remember being their age and doing the same thing, so I was glad I got an opportunity to do it. Lou Groza was an amazing man. He holds records and has awards named after him and to do something under his name and try to live up to his name, that’s an honor.”
Having players like Bademosi participate in Tuesday’s dedication was a way to incorporate and educate the current Browns about those who represented the orange and brown in the past.
“It’s really important for the current players to understand the Browns’ heritage and tradition,” said Renee Harvey, vice president of community outreach for the Browns, “and for them to see what kind of an impact they can have on the community and the legacy they can leave.”
Groza spent his post-playing career in the Berea area and left his mark on the town. A recreation park on the south side of Berea bears he and his late wife Jackie’s names. He also meant a lot to Dieken.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame offensive lineman and kicker, as well as the team’s all-time leading scorer also served as a scout. In a trip to see the University of Illinois, Groza saw Dieken on the defensive side of the ball.
“I can honestly say he was the first pro football player I ever met,” Dieken said. “He came when I was a senior at Illinois and actually, the day he came, I was playing defensive end, but he must have seen something. He suggested the Browns draft me.
“The fact that Lou was the original left tackle and then, Dick Schafrath and myself. Between the three of us, we kind of manned the position for 37 straight years. It’s special. I always called Lou my grandfather and Dick, my father. You couldn’t ask for a better grandfather than Lou.”