By: Steve King, Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com
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Coming and going.
That’s the way it was Feb. 11 through the years in Browns history for two former players who have one very important thing in common.
Linebacker Billy Andrews and wide receiver Ricky Feacher have a signature game that all longtime Browns fans will never forget, and that transformed their careers.
It was on this date in 1975 that Andrews was traded by the Browns to the Denver Broncos for defensive back Lonnie Hepburn.
Although only a 13th-round pick of the Browns in the 1967 NFL Draft out of Southeast Louisiana, Andrews not only made the team that year but played for it for eight seasons. He shared the right linebacker spot from 1970-72, and middle linebacker in ’73.
But it is the 1970 regular-season opener for which he is best known — by far.
Not well-known at the time, Andrews was on the field for extra pass coverage as the Browns tried to protect a 24-21 lead over the New York Jets in the waning moments of the first Monday Night Football game, played Sept. 21 at Cleveland Stadium. He became the first in a long line of players who made a name for themselves on MNF when he intercepted a Joe Namath pass and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown with a minute left to clinch a 31-21 victory before 85,703, the largest crowd ever to see a Browns game in Cleveland.
The play jump-started Andrews’ career and transformed him from a backup to a part-time starter.
After leaving Cleveland, Andrews went on to spend three more seasons with the San Diego Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs (where he played for his former Browns teammate, Paul Wiggin) to end his 11-year career.
It was on this date in 1954 that Feacher was born in Crystal River, Fla. A 10th-round draft choice of New England in 1976 out of tiny Mississippi Valley State, he played briefly for the Patriots before going to the Browns that season. That began a nine-year career in Cleveland, during which time he earned the nickname “Hollywood Dude” for his taste in flash clothing.
Entering the 1980 regular-season finale against the Bengals, played Dec. 21 at Cincinnati, Feacher had played little. He had just 19 catches for three TDs in his career, and only eight receptions for two scores that year.
Getting to play that day in place of Dave Logan, who caught a 65-yard pass early and then had to leave with an injury, Feacher had just two receptions, but they were arguably the biggest of the year for the Browns – and some of the biggest in team history.
He caught TD passes of 35 and 34 yards just three minutes apart in the third quarter, completely changing the complexion of the game by rallying the Kardiac Kids from a seven-point deficit to a seven-point lead, 24-17.
The Browns went on to win, 27-24, thus capturing their first AFC Central crown in nine years.
That elevated Feacher’s status on the Browns roster. He went on to have his biggest seasons the next two years, catching 29 passes for 654 yards (a 22.6 yards-per-reception average) and three touchdowns in 1981, and making 28 grabs for 408 yards (14.6) and three scores again in nine games in the strike-shortened ’82 season.
He had 113 receptions for 2,084 yards (18.4) and 15 touchdowns in his Browns career.
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