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Lou Groza did it all for Cleveland -- during and after his Hall of Fame career


When Lou Groza retired after the 1967 season, it was truly the end of an unforgettable era for the Cleveland Browns. The last remaining member of the original 1946 Browns team, the big offensive tackle and placekicking artist played 21 years, more than any other pro player up to that time.

Many fans remember Groza primarily as a kicker, the first specialist who became so proficient that the Browns started thinking of making field goals, instead of touchdowns, when the going was rough and time was running short. Groza, who was one of pro football's finest offensive tackles, particularly in the middle years of his long tenure, preferred to think of himself first as a tackle who just happened to be the Browns' field-goal kicker because he "had the talent."

Groza was named first- or second-team all-league eight times during his career. In 1954, he was The Sporting News' NFL Player of the Year. Nine times he was named to the Pro Bowl. Six times he was a starting tackle. In 1946, 33-man rosters prevented any team from carrying a specialist, but Groza was almost that, doing all of the kicking and playing on the scrimmage line only occasionally.

Late in his second season, Lou made "the first team" and he didn't give up that cherished status until 1959. He sat out the entire 1960 season with a back injury and then returned in 1961 at the age of 37 for seven more campaigns as a kicker only.

In 21 years, "The Toe," as he quickly became known, tallied 1,608 points and for years ranked as the all-time top scorer. His most dramatic kick came in the 1950 National Football League Championship Game, when his 16-yard field goal in the final seconds gave the Browns a 30-28 victory over the Los Angeles Rams.

Groza continued to stay close to the franchise after his retirement.  He stayed in Northeast Ohio to stay involved in alumni activities, became a goodwill ambassador for the team and work as an insurance executive.

When the Browns franchise transferred to Baltimore for the 1996 season, Groza became a leader among former Browns players in urging the NFL to put another team in Cleveland. His efforts paid off when the NFL quickly responded and, working with city officials, developed a unique solution that not only provided for a new state-of-the-art stadium, but guaranteed the return of pro football to Cleveland no later than 1999.

The Browns honored Groza for helping bring professional football back to Cleveland by renaming the street in front of their training facility Lou Groza Boulevard, retiring his number 76 and by placing a Groza sticker decal on the player's helmets for a season.

The Palm Beach County Sports Commission established the Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker award. This award is given annually to the nation's top collegiate place-kicker.

In 2010, the Lou Groza Football program was created in Berea, Ohio to help build a community and character through football. Lou Groza Football offers tackle football, flag football and cheerleading programs for children.

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