By: Steve King, Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com
Cleveland Clinic presents This Day in Browns History. If you call 1.800.274.2009, Cleveland Clinic will schedule an appointment for either the same day or the next day, including Saturdays. Call to learn more.
Much has been made of the fact the New England Patriots used a sixth-round pick in the seven-round 2000 NFL Draft to select a future Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback in Tom Brady.
Similarly, the Browns used a 13th-round pick in the 17-round 1972 NFL Draft to select the quarterback who holds most of their passing records, Brian Sipe.
It was on Feb. 2, 1972 that the draft concluded with rounds eight through 17. Sipe, a little-known player from San Diego who was thought by many to be too small to play in the NFL at a listed 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, was almost an after-though when he was tabbed four rounds from the bottom.
Maybe the bigger news that day for the Browns was that they used their 11th-round choice to take a player from the region in linebacker Mel Long from Toledo (Ohio) Macomber High School and the University of Toledo.
Long made the people in Northwest Ohio proud, beating the odds and winning a roster spot on a team that would go on to finish 10-4 and claim the AFC’s lone wild-card playoff spot. He played three years in all, through 1974, mostly as a backup and on special teams.
Meanwhile, the selection of Sipe flew under the radar not just then, but for a while, as he spent his first two years in the NFL on the taxi squad, the forerunner of today’s practice squad. He finally made the regular roster in 1974, became the starter in the second game of the 1976 season after Mike Phipps suffered a separated shoulder and in 1980 set club records by passing for 4,132 yards and 30 touchdowns in leading the Kardiac Kids Browns to an 11-5 record and their first AFC Central title in nine years.
For his performance that year, he earned the NFL Most Valuable Player award, becoming the first Cleveland player to do so since HOF running back Jim Brown in his final season of 1965.
Sipe, who played 10 NFL seasons, through 1983, is the Browns career passing leader with 23,713 yards, 154 touchdowns, 1,944 completions and 3,439 attempts.
Also taken on the second day of the 1972 Draft were Arizona State running back Hugh McKinnis in the eighth round and Henderson State wide receiver/running back Billy Lefear in the ninth round.
After spending the 1972 season in the Canadian Football League, McKinnis returned to play for the Browns for three years (1973-75), becoming their second-leading rusher in 1975 with 259 yards.
Lefear was in Cleveland for four seasons (1972-75), making his biggest impact as a kickoff returner. His 92-yard return to open the late-season game against Cincinnati in 1975 helped the Browns, who were 0-9 at that point, get rolling toward a 35-23 upset of the playoff-bound Bengals at Cleveland Stadium.
Unfortunately, though, Lefear also broke his leg when tackled on the play, effectively ending his career.
Also on this date, Feb. 2, through the years in Browns history:
*In 1954, Dave Logan, one of Sipe’s favorite targets, was born in Fargo, N.D. A tremendous player in high school in Colorado, and an excellent basketball player at Colorado University, he was drafted professionally in both sports as well as by the Browns in the third round in 1976.
Logan was played out of position at tight end in his first two seasons, but his career blossomed in 1978 when Sam Rutigliano took over as coach and moved him to wide receiver. He led the team in receptions (59) and receiving yards (982) in 1979, and his 46-yard scoring catch with 16 seconds left beat the Green Bay Packers, 26-21, at Cleveland midway through the 1980 season and is regarded as the key play on the Browns’ march to the division crown that year.
He finished his career with 262 receptions for 4,247 yards (seventh-best in Browns history), a 16.2 yards-per-catch average (tied for sixth) and 24 touchdowns (eighth).
Logan is now the longtime radio play-by-play voice of the Denver Broncos.
*In 1947, Walt Sumner was born in Ocilla, Ga. Taken in the seventh round of the 1969 NFL Draft out of Florida State, he was at least a part-time starter, first at cornerback and then at safety, for all six years (1969-74) he played for the Browns. He intercepted 15 passes, all but two of which came in his first three seasons, and had a 40-yard interception return for a touchdown as a rookie.
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