Otto Graham

Otto Graham was not the flashiest of NFL quarterbacks. There are probably football fans today who have never heard of him. But from 1946 to 1955, he took his Cleveland Browns to the league’s title game every single year – 10 seasons, 10 title games. And the Browns won the title in seven of those games, at first in the All-America Football Conference and then in the NFL.

Graham was not glamorous; you may look at his picture wearing high top sneakers on a frozen field and chuckle. But he won that game. In fact, Graham never missed a game as a pro, and he finished his career with an amazing 105-17-4 regular-season record. In 1954, the Browns met the Lions for the title; Graham ran for three scores, threw for three more, for a 56-10 win.

The following summer, in August of 1955, Otto Graham was the guest of Tom Rich at the member-guest tournament at the Skaneateles Country Club. The men were old friends; they had played basketball together for the Rochester Royals in 1945-46. Yes, the Royals team that won the NBL championship in 1946, the year before the league reformed as the NBA. (Which makes Graham the only athlete to win national championships in both basketball and football.)

Graham and Rich, however, did not work their accustomed magic on the golf course, and lost in the first flight to the duo of Cliff Turner and John McDonald.

The following autumn, Graham was coaxed back to Cleveland for one more year and led the franchise to another championship, throwing for two scores and running for two more in a 38-14 win over the Rams in his final game. Named the NFL MVP for the second time, Graham retired from football at age 33, a champion, and surely the greatest gridiron hero to ever grace the links at the Skaneateles Country Club.

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