By Steve King, Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com
Located about 40 minutes southeast of Cleveland, Hudson, Ohio is famous for the clock tower that has long stood as a beacon in the center of town.
Hudson is also famous for having produced a Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver in Dante Lavelli, whose career with the Browns has long stood as a beacon to every young person growing up in that community who wants to reach for the stars.
Lavelli, who was born Feb. 23, 1923 in Hudson, played all of his football in Ohio, first at Hudson High School, from which he graduated in 1941, then at Ohio State, where he was a member of that school’s first national championship team, and finally with the Browns.
He played on the Browns’ first 11 teams from 1946-56, and made it to the league championship game in the first 10 seasons, winning seven times. Four of those titles came in the All-America Football Conference from 1946-49, and then there were three crowns in the NFL in 1950, ’54 and ’55.
Lavelli was a major part of that success, teaming with Hall-of-Fame quarterback Otto Graham and wide receiver Mac Speedie, a Cleveland Browns Legend, to dazzle foes with the most sophisticated passing attack the game had ever seen. It was, in fact, the forerunner of today’s West Coast and spread offenses.
The fact Lavelli played with the Browns until just a year after Graham retired was no coincidence. The two were indelibly linked.
Lavelli had 386 receptions overall, including 244 in seven NFL seasons, for a total of 6,488 yards and 62 touchdowns.
The Browns’ official career statistics include only those seasons played in the NFL, but if his overall numbers were recognized, then Lavelli would be second in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches.
And he did all that in the NFL in 12-game seasons.
Lavelli’s nickname was “Glue Fingers,” and with good reason, for he caught nearly everything he got his hands on.
Also on this date, Feb. 23, in Browns history:
*In 1983, Howard Mudd was hired by coach Sam Rutigliano to be the team’s offensive line coach. A former NFL offensive lineman himself for seven seasons, mostly with the San Francisco 49ers, he did a great job over the six seasons he was with the Browns, leading the rebuilding of the line after the Kardiac Kids years into the Bernie Kosar era.
*In 1958, Paul McDonald was born in Montebello, Calif. The quarterback was taken in the fourth round of the 1980 NFL Draft out of USC and came on down the stretch in 1982 to help rescue a struggling Browns team and get it into the AFC playoffs. He was the full-time starter in 1984 and then served as a backup the following season before going to the Dallas Cowboys in 1986 to end his seven-year career.
*In 1932, Gern Nagler was born in Yuba City, Calif. A product of Santa Clara, the wide receiver broke into the NFL in 1953 and played his first five seasons with the Chicago Cardinals before going to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1959. He then completed his career by spending the next two seasons with the Browns, finishing second on the team in 1960 with 36 receptions.
He had 196 career receptions for 28 TDs, including 55 catches for four scores with Cleveland.
*In 1933, Bob Smith was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa. A 15th-round draft choice of the Browns in 1955 out of Nebraska, the running back saw limited action in 1955 and the start of ’56 before going to the Philadelphia Eagles to finish that season, and his brief career. His highlight was being part of the 1955 club that won the Browns’ second straight NFL championship.
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