Lou Groza - Offensive Tackle/Kicker
Lou Groza certainly left a huge legacy in a 21-year career (1946-59, 1961-67) with the Browns, by far the longest in team history and the longest in pro football history at the time.
And others have made sure he will forever be remembered.
For starters, the top kicker in college football every year is given the Lou Groza Award. In addition, the road on which Browns Headquarters is located in Berea, Ohio is named Lou Groza Boulevard.
And the nickname Groza was given? It was "The Toe," perfect for a kicker.
Groza started a great tradition of great Browns kickers through the decades, being followed by Don Cockroft, Matt Bahr, Matt Stover and Phil Dawson. He was the first great kicker in the game, putting special teams into the limelight for the first time in pro football history. He led his Martins Ferry (Ohio) High School basketball team to the state championship in 1941 and then played at Ohio State for a year before going to the Army. When World War II was over, he did well for the time as a kicker on the first four Browns teams from 1946-49 in the All-America Football Conference, hitting 30-of-76 field-goal tries (39.5 percent). But when the Browns went to the NFL, Groza was able to up his game considerably and begin establishing a standard of excellence for kickers.
In his first year in the new league in 1950, he had his best performance of his career to that point, making 13-of-19 field goals. Then in the first of two postseason games that year, he kicked two field goals to spark an 8-3 victory over the New York Giants in a special playoff to decide the American Conference title. That qualified the Browns for the NFL Championship Game against the Los Angeles Rams, who had bolted Cleveland after the 1945 season just as the Browns were beginning to get organized, and Groza decided the game with a field goal with 28 seconds left in a 30-28 win.
Two seasons later, in 1952, he began a three-year stretch that elevated his status even more. That year, he led the NFL in both field goals (19) and attempts, and in 1953, he had probably his greatest season by topping the league in field goals (23), attempts (26), field-goal percentage (88.5) and extra-point percentage (97.5). He was first in field goals (16), field-goal percentage (66.7) and extra-point percentage (97.4) in 1954. By that point, Groza had established himself as the greatest kicker the game had known, and he just kept building on it. Returning in 1961 after temporarily retiring for a year because of an ailing back, he led the NFL in both field-goal (69.6) and extra-point (97.4) percentage. He did the same in 1963 at the age of 39 with 65.2 and 93.0 marks, respectively. A month short of his 44th birthday, he finally retired for good following the 1967 season as the last of the original Browns, having scored the staggering total of 1,349 points by making 234-of-405 field goals (57.8 percent) and 641-of-657 extra points (97.6). In addition, Groza excelled as a starter at left tackle, being a starter there from 1948-59, during which time, because of his proficiency at both positions, he was All-NFL six times and made nine trips to the Pro Bowl.
-- Steve King
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