Bernie Kosar felt like a kid again as he stepped to the podium with a standing ovation from hundreds of people in front of him Tuesday night at the Greater Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
Kosar, the legendary and beloved Browns alumnus and Boardman native who spent nine years creating unforgettable memories as Cleveland's QB, was beaming with joy as he recalled his love for the city, the Browns and all the memories that led to his induction into one of the region's highest athletic honors. His career was honored Wednesday inside a ballroom at the Cleveland Marriott Downtown at Key Tower.
"Thirty-seven years ago this past week was my first start for the Cleveland Browns against the Houston Oilers," Kosar said. "It doesn't seem like 37 years ago, but I guess a kid getting into the Hall of Fame doesn't mean you're young anymore."
For Kosar, 58, those memories extended years before his first start with the Browns.
They began when he was a kid growing up 80 miles away from the city with the dream of one day playing for the Browns. Those dreams didn't fade when he graduated from Boardman High School and began chasing an NFL career in college at Miami, where he became one of the top quarterback prospects in the nation.
When the time to enter the NFL Draft came, Kosar didn't want to play anywhere else but Cleveland. He famously skipped enlisting his eligibility for the NFL Draft to instead be taken in the league's supplemental draft, where the Browns traded with the Bills to own the first overall pick and eventually select their hometown kid.
Kosar's dream was coming true, and he lived it from 1985 to 1993 when he led the Browns to the playoffs five times. He piloted them to the doorstep of the Super Bowl in the AFC Championship Game in three of those seasons, and although he didn't win a ring with the Browns, he attained one with the Cowboys in 1993.
Still, Kosar's heart remained in Cleveland, the scrappy, tight-knit town that has never failed to rally around their sports franchises.
"To be able to come back here at a time when the city wasn't doing as good and the area wasn't as good, and to be able to help make a difference in the community really resonated with me," he said. "That kind of mindset has really stayed with me through the next 37 years."
The significance and memories of his career are still being celebrated by the city nearly four decades later, too.
"To be here now and to be enshrined in that Hall of Fame, I still feel like a little kid, that little boy who was excited to play for his hometown team and play in front of his family and friends," Kosar said. "It couldn't have been any cooler than that."