Today, the Cleveland Browns recognized the newest members of the Cleveland Browns Legends -- former linebacker Vince Costello and center Tom DeLeone -- in a special halftime ceremony during their game against the Miami Dolphins.
Costello played with the Browns from 1957-66 and was a member of the team’s last league championship in 1964. During Costello’s time in Cleveland, the Browns posted an 88-39-5 record and never suffered a losing season.
DeLeone was the anchor of the Browns’ offensive line from 1974-84, including the 1980 Kardiac Kids season.
“Obviously, I’m very excited about it and pleased with it,” Costello said. “My feeling on it is, at the end of my career, I did my job. That’s what you’re telling me. It makes me feel good. I made a lot of friends playing pro football -- and if it really came down to it, most players would play for nothing and I’d be one of them; it was that much fun -- I enjoyed it all and I was getting paid for it.”
DeLeone added, “It’s unbelievable, unexpected. Both of us are from Northeast Ohio and both of us were Browns fans when we were little. He was probably on the original Browns, not really, but not far off. I had a special career and this kind of finalizes it. I tried to do it right too.”
Both men were humbled when they heard about their selection and impending induction into the Cleveland Browns Legends. Both are looking forward to returning to Cleveland for the ceremony.
“They are great fans; I’m a Cleveland fan myself,” DeLeone said. “They stick with what they believe in and that’s what Cleveland people are about. Ohio people, they start believing in something and it takes a lot to change their minds. We’re glad about that. I’m glad they stuck with us, the Kardiac Kids.”
Costello added, “We had great fans when I was there. We had real good fans and I was always excited about it. I enjoyed every game I played there. That’s all I can say.”
PLAYING FOR A TITLE
Costello played in two NFL championship games with the Browns, first in 1957, which they fell to the Detroit Lions, and then, in the 27-0 victory over the Baltimore Colts following the 1964 season.
“I can remember everything; that made my career,” Costello said of 1964. “My first year, we played in the playoffs and we played a couple other times in the playoffs, but the biggest thrill in my career was the world championship. If we would’ve done that, it would’ve fulfilled a career. That’s what I did. I fulfilled my career and I was real pleased and tickled to death to do that.”
Costello finished his Browns career with 18 interceptions and tied for the team lead with seven takeaways during the 1963 season. Costello concluded his career with the New York Giants (1967-68) after playing in 130 games with the Browns.
“We had good players and good teams and I think almost every game we played in, we were still in it to be in the championship,” Costello recalled. “There were only a couple years where it didn’t happen. Most of the time, we were always in it to the end, even if we didn’t win it. We were competitive and that was a big thing that I liked.”
LEADING THE WAY
DeLeone played in 149 regular season games with the Browns during his 11-year tenure with the team. He blocked for seven 1,000-yard rushers -- including Greg Pruitt (1975-77) and Mike Pruitt (1979-81, 1983) and earned two Pro Bowl selections in 1980 and 1981.
In addition to clearing the way for the running backs, DeLeone protected quarterback Brian Sipe during his MVP season in 1980. Behind DeLeone, Sipe completed 337 of 554 attempts for a team-record 4,132 yards and 30 touchdowns against 14 interceptions.
Sipe spent his entire Browns career behind DeLeone and set 14 franchise records, including the most passing yards in a career (23,713), season (4,132) and game (444 against the Baltimore Colts on Oct. 25, 1981) and most passing touchdowns in a career (154).
During his time on the offensive line, DeLeone and his teammates had a motto, “Keep them off Brian.”
“We talked about it in the huddle, after work, during work, ‘We’ve got to keep them off Brian. He can get it there,’” DeLeone said. “We had a pretty good team (in 1980), just a hair away. It was unbelievable. Every time we’d go on away trips and come home, the whole airport would be filled with people.”
The Browns came up three points short of defeating the Oakland Raiders in a playoff game on Jan. 4, 1981 when Mike Davis intercepted Sipe’s pass intended for tight end Ozzie Newsome in the end zone on a play that is remembered simply as “Red Right 88.”
“It was such a disappointment with that interception, but that’s how we played all year,” DeLeone said. “Ozzie could’ve just as well caught it. It just wasn’t in the right spot. All year long, we were gunslingers in that position of the field. We got down in that area of the field on a draw play and it was good, but we didn’t question the call. I was thinking, ‘We’ve got to win this game. We’ve got to get a touchdown here.’ The Most Valuable Player of the league dropped back and threw the ball. I really don’t believe it could’ve been thrown any better.”
Current Browns radio broadcaster Doug Dieken and Robert E. Jackson were DeLeone’s teammates on the offensive line.
“Tom was a guy that was ready to go to battle any time and I think one of Tom’s greatest assets was his quickness,” Dieken said. “He was probably the fastest center in the league. I think he ran a 4.6 40. I remember one time he ran a little faster than that and that was when Joe Greene decided to hold Bob McKay down by the facemask and try to play soccer with him. Tom came off that bench at about 4.3 speed and hit Joe Greene. I think that kind of told you want Tom was all about. You never had to worry. Tom always had your back.”
Jackson added, “Tom DeLeone was a very competitive player. He was a little on the smaller side, but didn’t back down from anybody, really the glue of our offensive line. He anchored the center position, made a lot of the calls and really, a great leader to look up to.”
DeLeone going after Greene was just an indication of how tight the offensive linemen were.
“We were, in our own way, the band of brothers of offensive linemen,” Dieken recalled. “We always looked at it as our own motorcycle gang, where if (messed) with one of us, you (messed) with all of us. Tom was kind of the centerpiece. He was the guy that set the tempo and he was always ready to play. Tom came to the game already wired.”
For his intensity and determination on the football field, DeLeone received the nickname “Anvilhead.” He was also a loyal player that took his job of defending the quarterback seriously.
“He was as stubborn as can be,” Dieken said. “He was the guy that said, ‘This is our quarterback. If you hit him, we’ll hit you.’ That was the message that everyone on that offensive line had. They were roommates and most quarterbacks don’t want to room with an offensive lineman. Brian knew what kind of guy Tom was.”
PLAYING FOR THE LEGENDS
There might not be two more well-known coaches in the state of Ohio. Hayes was the legendary coach of The Ohio State University. Brown, once the coach at Ohio State, also coached at Massillon High School and for both the Browns and Bengals.
DeLeone had the unique experience of playing for both Hayes and Brown during his collegiate and professional careers.
“With Woody Hayes, it’s his way or the trail way,” DeLeone said. “He was rather boisterous about it, but he was a great guy. There’s no doubt. It was just different times; different times than they are now. Paul Brown was no-nonsense. ‘We’re going to practice from this time to this time and coaches, you need to get it in.’ When it was over, he got in his Cadillac and went home.”
Hayes was known for his emotional outbursts, including one that led to his ouster from Ohio State when he punched a Clemson player following an interception in the Gator Bowl. However, DeLeone saw a different side of Hayes.
“He stopped at the hospital every night before he went home to see if there were any kids or anybody that needed any help,” DeLeone said. “I don’t know what he did; he was just there being a good Samaritan, shaking hands, talking to people and trying to make them feel better. It’s just what he wanted to do. He was unbelievable.”
GETTING TO THE BROWNS
Originally told he would be drafted by the Browns, DeLeone ended up starting his career with the Cincinnati Bengals and played for Brown during that time. Following a work stoppage, DeLeone was traded to the Atlanta Falcons.
After an argument with Falcons coach Norm van Brocklin about the labor situation, DeLeone was placed on waivers. The Houston Oilers picked DeLeone up after he cleared waivers, but never signed him to a contract.
“I flew to Houston and was all set, but I hadn’t signed the contract yet or anything,” DeLeone said. “They told me, ‘Bud Adams is busy. Wait this and wait that.’ Now, Houston’s playing the Browns that weekend. Jim Copeland dislocated his hip and I had a house down there. I thought ‘Now would’ve been my chance to go to Cleveland, where I grew up.’ I followed the Browns and always wanted to play for the Browns and it just so happened that the league office called me up and told me, ‘You’re a free agent. Nobody owns you. You can go to Cleveland if you want to.’”
Once he did not receive a response from the Oilers, DeLeone decided to join the Browns.
“I called Bud Adams and told him, ‘If you want to sign me, I’m here, I’m ready to go, I’m ready to play,’” DeLeone said. “Nobody called me, so I got on the next plane and went to Cleveland. The rest is history.”
The Cleveland Browns Legends was established in 2001 to honor former players who have made a significant impact on the organization. Players must be retired for five years and have played for the club at least five seasons to be eligible for induction.
The original class in 2001 featured the team’s Pro Football Hall of Famers at the time -- Coach Paul Brown, running backs Jim Brown and Leroy Kelly, offensive linemen Joe DeLamielleure, Frank Gatski and Mike McCormack, defensive end Len Ford, quarterback Otto Graham, tackle/kicker Lou Groza, end Dante Lavelli, wide receiver/halfback Bobby Mitchell, fullback Marion Motley, tight end Ozzie Newsome, wide receiver Paul Warfield and middle guard Bill Willis.
Wide receiver Ray Renfro, running back Greg Pruitt, defensive tackle Michael Dean Perry, quarterback Bernie Kosar and 2007 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, Gene Hickerson were also part of the 2001 class.
Other members of the Cleveland Browns Legends include Mac Speedie, Brian Sipe, Clay Matthews, Bob Gain, Dick Schafrath, Hanford Dixon, Tommy James, Dub Jones, Gary Collins, Mike Pruitt, Jim Ray Smith, Frank Ryan, Jerry Sherk, Frank Minnifield, Walt Michaels, Jim Houston, Doug Dieken, Earnest Byner, Horace Gillom, Bill Glass, Don Cockroft, Kevin Mack, Warren Lahr, Paul Wiggin, Walter Johnson and Eric Metcalf.
Last year, offensive linemen Cody Risien (1979-83, 1985-89) and John Wooten (1959-67) were inducted into the Cleveland Browns Legends.
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