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Dieken: Tom DeLeone was 'heartbeat' of Kardiac Kids

One season during their many years together, Doug Dieken asked Tom DeLeone to help him out with a Special Olympics event in Cleveland. DeLeone didn't hesitate, of course, and Dieken wanted to express his thanks when the event concluded.

What happened next is why Dieken says DeLeone "exemplifies what this area is all about."

"Before I could get the thank you out of my mouth, Tom goes 'what time is it next year?'" Dieken said. "That was just the kind of guy he was."

Dieken appeared on Monday's Cleveland Browns Daily to share stories and memories of DeLeone, the former Browns center who died Sunday at the age of 65 after a five-year battle with brain cancer.

"Tom was a special guy," Dieken said. "He was a blue-collar, hard-working, tough, tenacious guy. He loved playing for Ohio State and he loved playing for the Browns. He was a battler and he battled a brain tumor about as long as I think you could. Unfortunately it ended.

"We often refer to our group as the Kardiac Kids and Tom was kind of the heartbeat of the Kardiac Kids."

DeLeone was one of a number of players who went from under the radar to pivotal members of the 1980 Browns. A fifth-round pick by the Bengals, DeLeone bounced between a few teams before landing with the Browns in 1974. He became a starter one year later and held down the position for years.

Dieken was one of a number of "Kardiac Kids" who visited DeLeone in recent months at his residence in Park City, Utah. The outpouring of support was indicative of his character, which was respected by all who shared the field with him.

"There was a lot of guys on that team that people call overachievers, but you're either an achiever or you're not," Dieken said. "You had a bunch of guys who knew the only way you're going to be successful was if you played as a team.

"You can't take any money with you but you can always take people's respect, and he's got a lot of it."

Check out the rest of Dieken's interview at the top of the page.

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