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Mike McCormack

CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 01: Cleveland Browns Hall of Fame tackle Mike McCormack #74 poses for a photo in 1959. in Cleveland, Ohio. (AP Photo/NFL Photos)

Mike McCormack – Tackle

Beginning with Pro Football Hall of Famer Lou Groza, then Dick Schafrath and Doug Dieken and now with Joe Thomas, the Browns have had a tremendous legacy at left tackle since their inception – one of the best in the history of the game, in fact.

But when it comes to greatness, right tackle is represented, too, in Mike McCormack. Playing his first NFL season in 1951 with the New York Yankees, he spent the next two years serving in the Army and was traded to the Browns by the Yanks' successor, the Baltimore Colts, in a major deal in which Cleveland gave up 10 players, including defensive back Don Shula. In nine years with the Browns, he made it to the Pro Bowl five times. Following the retirement of Hall of Fame middle guard Bill Willis after the 1953 season, Browns head coach Paul Brown worried the position would become a weak link in his team's defense. But McCormack, who had been an offensive tackle with the Yankees, moved to middle guard in 1954 at Brown's request and performed quite well throughout, including making a key play in the 56-10 victory over the Detroit Lions in the NFL Championship Game that year. He then took over at right tackle the following year, where he remained until retiring after the 1962 season. With Groza and Schafrath at tackle, and talented Jim Ray Smith at guard, paving the way on the left side, and Hall of Fame center Frank "Gunner" Gatski anchoring the middle initially, McCormack's presence enable the Browns to work the right side as well, making their offense completely balanced along the line and giving it a variety of ways to attack defenses. When running back Jim Brown arrived in 1957 as the team's first-round draft choice, he found a ready-made line to clear the way for him to get into the Hall of Fame as the NFL's career rushing leader. Twice with McCormack at tackle, Brown ran for 237 yards in a game, an NFL record at the time.

McCormack, a Chicago native who played at Kansas University, is one of five Browns offensive linemen in the Hall of Fame, joining, as mentioned, Groza and Gatski, along with Gene Hickerson and Joe DeLamielleure. Combined, they manned all five positions along the line for all, or at least part, of their careers. All excepted DeLamielleure played in the 1950s, so it's no wonder that the Browns were the dominant NFL team during that decade, playing in seven league championship games, winning three of them, and amassing a regular-season record of 88-30-2.

– Steve King