Don Cockroft, the former Browns kicker and punter who spent 14 seasons in Cleveland from 1967-1981, has moved back to his native Colorado after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease.
"Thank you for all the support through the years," Cockroft said in a statement delivered from his family. "I miss the fans and the people of Ohio. They were very good to me, and I enjoyed the time I spent in both Cleveland and Canton. I am trusting the good Lord to continue to direct my path, and I know He loves us all."
Cockroft, who turned 77 on Sunday, has called Colorado home since childhood and spent much of his younger years refining his kicking skills by kicking over a barn on his family's farm property. His mastery of kicking continued to grow all the way through high school and college, where he attended Adams State College in Alamosa, Colorado. His tryout earned him a scholarship, and he established himself as one of the top kickers and punters in the country.
Cockroft was drafted by the Browns in the third round of the 1967 draft and continued to grow as a kicker under the tutelage of another all-time great specialist, Lou Groza, who was with Cockroft for his rookie season. Cockroft took over kicking and punting duties after Groza retired the following year, and he instantly became one of the most reliable specialists in the league.
After 188 consecutive games, which is the seventh-longest streak in franchise history, Cockroft retired in 1981 as one of the most decorated kickers in the history of the sport. He was also one of the last "straight-on" kickers, where the ball is kicked directly from behind rather than the side, and "double-duty" specialists, where a player both kicks and punts, in the history of the league.
At the time of his retirement, he had accumulated the eighth-most points ever in the NFL — his 1,080 points still ranks third in franchise history behind only Groza and Phil Dawson — and held records for the longest punt (71 yards) and longest field goal (57 yards). His field goal percentage, 65.9 percent, was the highest in the NFL for all kickers who attempted over 70 field goals at the time of his retirement.
In his post-football life, Cockroft authored a book about the Kardiac Kids called "The 1980 Kardiac Kids - Our Untold Stories." He was also a motivational speaker and volunteered for the local chapters for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.