By: Steve King, Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com
Jim Ray Smith, born Feb. 27, 1932 in West Columbia, Texas, was a sixth-round draft pick of the Browns in 1954 from Baylor and played as a left guard with them for seven seasons (1956-62).
Blocking for Hall of Fame running backs Jim Brown and Bobby Mitchell, he made the Pro Bowl in each of his last five years and was also selected All-NFL in each of his final four seasons.
Smith played nine years overall in the NFL, spending 1963 and ’64 with his hometown Dallas Cowboys before retiring.
Three other former Browns – linebackers Van Waiters and David Grayson and defensive end Jerry Wilkinson — were also born on Feb. 27.
Waiters, who was born in 1965 in Coral Gables, Fla., was a third-round draft choice of the Browns in 1988 out of Indiana. He played with them for four seasons, sharing the right linebacker spot – with Grayson – in 1989 and ’90, and the left linebacker job with David Brandon in 1991. He finished his career in 1992 with the Minnesota Vikings.
Waiters’ biggest moment with the Browns turned out to also be a big one for the club on its drive to the 1989 AFC Central championship.
Mired in a three-game losing streak and, at 7-6-1, being unable to suffer another defeat and remain in the playoff hunt, the Browns were tied, 17-17, in overtime with the Minnesota Vikings. It was a bitterly cold day – the temperature was two degrees, with a wind-chill factor of minus-15 – making it hard to kick, especially with field goals of any distance.
Matt Bahr set up for the 31-yard game-winner at the Dawg Pound end of Cleveland Stadium, where the winds were particularly tricky. However, the Browns opted for a fake, with holder/backup quarterback Mike Pagel standing up to lob a 14-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Waiters, who was eligible after lining up as one of the end men.
The 23-17 win helped propel the Browns to a final 9-6-1 mark and their fourth division crown in five years.
Born in 1964 in San Diego as the son of former Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Dave Grayson, Grayson was a seventh-round draft choice of the San Francisco 49ers in 1987 but never played with them.
When the players strike came after two weeks in the 1987 season and the owners decided to continue the schedule with replacement players, Grayson was one of those signed by the Browns. The strike ended after three games, and Grayson, with his strong performance, was one of a precious few replacement players around the league to remain with their teams once the regulars returned.
Grayson played four seasons, through 1990, with the Browns, and is best remembered as being maybe the biggest defensive star in the 51-0 win at Pittsburgh in the 1989 season opener as the club handed the Steelers their worst home loss in history. He scored two touchdowns, on a 28-yard fumble return in the first quarter and a 14-yard interception return in the third quarter.
The Fresno State product played briefly with the San Diego Chargers in 1991 to end his career.
Wilkinson, born in 1956 in San Francisco, is among the tallest players in Browns history at 6-foot-9. He was a fourth-round draft choice of the Los Angeles Rams in 1979 out of Oregon State and remained with them that year as they made it to their first Super Bowl.
He split his time between the Browns and 49ers in 1980 in his final season in the NFL, being part of Cleveland’s Kardiac Kids team that won the AFC Central.
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