Safety Ken Gorgal wasn’t with the Browns long -- his military service during the Korean War era took care of that -- but he really made the most of his time with the club.
A product of Purdue, Gorgal was a sixth-round choice of the Browns in the 1950 NFL Draft. As a rookie that season, he finished third on the team with six interceptions, being an integral part of a defense that, because of all the future Pro Football Hall of Famers on the Cleveland offense, never got its due. Playing in a secondary that contained established stars such as Warren Lahr, Tommy James and Cliff Lewis, Gorgal, who was a very big defensive back at the time at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, stepped right in and became the starter.
The Browns gave up just 144 points that year and kept five of their 12 opponents in single-digits scoring, en route to winning the NFL championship in their first season in the league.
Proving that his good performance as a rookie was no fluke, Gorgal came back his next year with the Browns and had the second-most interceptions on the team with four. The defense quietly did a great job again, helping the club get back to the league title game.
The thing is, that “second” season with the Browns didn’t come until 1953, as Gorgal spent 1951 and ’52 in the service as a member of the Army’s Counter Intelligence Corps. So after being idled for two entire seasons, he returned and played as if he had never left.
In his third and final season in Cleveland in 1954, Gorgal missed the last half of the year with an injury and his interceptions total dropped to one -- but it was a big one. He returned it 53 yards for a touchdown.
The defense allowed just 162 points for the second straight year, and the Browns rolled to their second NFL crown in five seasons.
So in his short three-year stint with the Browns, Gorgal recorded 11 interceptions, or an average of just under four per year, and had played on two NFL title-winning teams.
That’s pretty special.
And it was also unexpected, for it didn’t seem Gorgal would make it to the NFL -- or, in fact, that he would really play football at all. He hated football while growing up in Illinois. His father, Alex Gorgal, played for Rock Island in the early days of pro football, and young Ken was completely turned off on the sport when Dad would come home with bruises, scrapes and even the occasional black eye.
Gorgal went on to the Chicago Bears in 1955 and, like he had with the Browns five years earlier, burst onto the scene impressively by again getting six interceptions in that first season. He had two more the next year while splitting time with the Bears and Green Bay Packers before retiring.
Gorgal and William “Dub” Jones will be in attendance at today’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals and will be honored pre-game as part of the weekly "Alumni Spotlight" on the scoreboard.