They don't make 'em like Lou “The Toe” Groza any more. The legendary placekicker and offensive tackle of the original Cleveland Browns, who died this week, was a Pro Football Hall of Famer from the old school. Unheard of today, football players in Groza's time often did double-duty, playing offense and defense, bolstering the team wherever the need was greatest.
“The Toe” was no different. When he wasn't dazzling fans with his kicking exploits, Groza starred as an offensive left tackle, making All-NFL for six years.
Eventually Lou Groza stuck to his kicking specialty. He made the winning field goal with 28 seconds to spare in 1950, beating the Los Angeles Rams in a heart-stopping 30-28 game that won the NFL championship for the Browns in their very first season in the league.
He racked up impressive career stats, like being the Browns' leading scorer in 13 seasons and grabbing the most points in the franchise's history, including four seasons in the All-America Football Conference, with more than 1,600. He is ranked 15th on the NFL's all-time scoring list.
Lou Groza didn't make a fortune playing football like his counterparts of today, but his blue-collar grit on the field and sportsmanship during and after battle made him a beloved figure of the game and a Browns institution.
Groza was a sports hero who acted like one, carrying himself proudly, never intimating that it was all about him but more about the team and its honor. He was someone kids could look up to and he was humbled by the admiration. The biggest thrill of his post-football-playing days was getting a street named after him in his hometown of Berea. The Browns are headquartered there at 76 Lou Groza Blvd. - 76 was his number.
Along with close teammates like Dante Lavelli and Otto Graham, he epitomized the spirit of the old Browns.
Groza was one of a kind, in a sports era that sadly fades into history a little more with each passing of another legend who laid the groundwork for a grand tradition.