Cliff Lewis (quarterback)

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For the linebacker, see Cliff Lewis (linebacker).
Cliff Lewis
A headshot of Cliff Lewis from a 1946 Cleveland Browns game program
Lewis in 1946
No. 62
Quarterback, Defensive back
Personal information
Date of birth: (1923-03-22)March 22, 1923
Place of birth: Cleveland, Ohio
Date of death: July 24, 2002(2002-07-24) (aged 79)
Place of death: Tampa, Florida
Height: 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m) Weight: 168 lb (76 kg)
Career information
High school: Lakewood High School, Staunton Military Academy
College: Duke University
NFL Draft: 1946 / Round: 21 / Pick: 200
Debuted in 1946 for the Cleveland Browns
Last played in 1951 for the Cleveland Browns
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics as of 1951
Games 71
Interceptions 30
Punt Return Yards 710
Stats at NFL.com
Stats at pro-football-reference.com
Stats at DatabaseFootball.com

Clifford Allen Lewis (March 22, 1923 – July 24, 2002) was a professional American football player for the Cleveland Browns of the All-America Football Conference and National Football League. He was the team's first quarterback.

Lewis attended Lakewood High School in Lakewood, Ohio, and Staunton Military Academy in Virginia. He went to Duke University, where he played football as a back. He was a member of the Duke Blue Devils basketball team during the 1944–1945 season. Lewis joined the Browns after graduating from college and spent his entire professional career with the team, playing primarily as a defensive back. He left the game after the 1951 season to concentrate on his insurance business. Lewis died in 2002.

High school and college career[edit]

Lewis grew up in Lakewood, Ohio and attended Lakewood High School. He played football and baseball, and was on a Lakewood basketball team that reached the state high school championship game in 1941.[1] Lakewood's football team tied for the Lake Erie League championship in 1940 and 1941, when Lewis played left halfback.[2] Lewis later transferred to Staunton Military Academy in Virginia, and in 1942 set a school scoring record in football with 14 touchdowns and 282 total points.[2]

After graduating, Lewis attended Duke University in Durham, North Carolina and played as a back on the school's Blue Devils football team.[3] Lewis was Duke's second-string tailback as a sophomore in 1944, but he took over starting duties after the original first-stringer, Allen Elger, suffered a knee injury.[4] Lewis, however, broke his elbow in the team's second game of the season against the University of Pennsylvania and had to sit out.[4] He returned for a November game against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, and in a 34–0 victory on November 11 against the previously undefeated Wake Forest University he passed to receiver Clark Jones for a touchdown.[3][5] Later in November, he passed to Harold Raether for the final touchdown in a 33-0 win over the University of North Carolina that gave Duke a second consecutive Southern Conference title and a spot in 1944's Sugar Bowl game against the University of Alabama.[6] Lewis's passing helped Duke drive the ball 64 yards in the third quarter against Alabama, leading to a touchdown by All-American Tom Davis. Duke won 29–26.[7] While football was Lewis's main sport, he also played basketball at Duke in the 1944–1945 season.[8]

Professional career[edit]

Lewis entered the U.S. Navy in 1945 and was a triple threat player and alternate quarterback for the Fleet City, California Bluejackets, a military team.[9][10] The Bluejackets won the national service title that year.[11]

The Los Angeles Rams of the National Football League (NFL) selected Lewis with the 200th pick in the 1946 NFL Draft, but NFL commissioner Bert Bell ruled him ineligible under league rules. The Rams took Lewis thinking he was in the 1946 graduating class, but he had one more year of eligibility left as an athlete who entered college in 1943.[12] The decision delayed Lewis's professional career for a year; in 1946 he signed with the Cleveland Browns of the new All-America Football Conference (AAFC).[11] Lewis started at quarterback for the Browns in their first three games in his first season, sharing duties with Otto Graham. After Graham took over as the starting quarterback, he became a defensive back who also returned punts and kickoffs.[13] Lewis had five interceptions in his first season, when the Browns won the AAFC championship.[14] Cleveland won the league championship in each of the ensuing three years before the AAFC dissolved and the Browns were absorbed into the more established NFL.[15]

The Browns beat the Rams to win the NFL championship in 1950, the team's first year in the league.[16] The following year, Lewis returned a Bob Waterfield interception for 12 yards to the Cleveland 32-yard line during the Browns' 24–17 loss to the Rams in the NFL title game at the Los Angeles Coliseum.[17] After the 1951 season, Lewis retired from the Browns to devote himself full-time to his insurance business.[18]

Later life and death[edit]

In 1961-62, Lewis worked as a color commentator on Browns television broadcasts, and became vice president of insurance administration for the New York Yankees following the team's purchase by George Steinbrenner in 1973. He participated in the retired players division of the NFL players' golf tournament in Hollywood, Florida, in January 1961.[19] He was inducted into the Greater Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame in 1976.[1] Lewis died at the age of 79 in Tampa, Florida following an extended illness in 2002.[20]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Cliff Lewis". Greater Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on October 6, 2012. Retrieved August 25, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b "Ex-Lakewood Athlete Sets Scoring Mark". Cleveland Plain Dealer. December 3, 1942. p. 20. 
  3. ^ a b "Duke's Long Runs Stop Wake Forest". The New York Times. November 12, 1944. p. 53. Archived from the original on October 6, 2012. Retrieved August 4, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b "Expect Clark To Pace Duke". St. Joseph Gazette (Durham, N.C.). Associated Press. December 30, 1944. p. 5. Retrieved August 4, 2012. 
  5. ^ "Lewis Returns to Duke Squad". The New York Times. November 2, 1944. p. 24. 
  6. ^ "Duke Overpowers No. Carolina, 33-0". The New York Times. November 26, 1944. p. 54. Archived from the original on October 6, 2012. Retrieved August 4, 2012. 
  7. ^ "Duke's Power Beats Ala. Air Attack 29-26". Schenectady Gazette (New Orleans). Associated Press. January 2, 1945. p. 11. Retrieved August 4, 2012. 
  8. ^ "Penn Easily Beats Princeton, 66 to 52". The New York Times. February 11, 1945. p. 51. 
  9. ^ "Triple-Threat Star". Los Angeles Times. December 4, 1945. p. A8. 
  10. ^ "The Hyland Fling". Los Angeles Times. December 4, 1945. p. A8. 
  11. ^ a b "Mutryn, Kolesar and Cliff Lewis Are Signed by Cleveland Browns". Cleveland Plain Dealer. February 19, 1946. p. 18. Lewis, 22, is a product of Lakewood High, and at Duke was an outstanding back who sparked the Blue Devils' 29-to-26 victory over Alabama in the 1945 Sugar Bowl game at New Orleans. Last season, in the Navy, he was a member of the crack Fleet City (Cal.) Bluejackets who won the national service title. 
  12. ^ "Rams Lose Two Draftees". Los Angeles Times. May 28, 1946. p. A7. 
  13. ^ Piascik 2007, pp. 48–49.
  14. ^ Piascik 2007, pp. 64–65.
  15. ^ Piascik 2007, pp. 81, 121, 146.
  16. ^ Piascik 2007, p. 181.
  17. ^ "Rams Whip Browns, 24-17; Win Pro Title". Los Angeles Times. December 24, 1951. p. C1. 
  18. ^ "Browns' Quarterback Quits". The New York Times. July 31, 1952. p. 19. 
  19. ^ "National Football Loop Players Keep Miller as Their Attorney". The New York Times. January 5, 1961. p. 36. 
  20. ^ "Lewis was first QB to play for Browns". ESPN Classic. SportsTicker. July 25, 2002. Archived from the original on October 6, 2012. Retrieved August 5, 2012. 

Bibliography[edit]

  • Piascik, Andy (2007). The Best Show in Football: The 1946–1955 Cleveland Browns. Lanham, MD: Taylor Trade Publishing. ISBN 978-1-58979-571-6. 

External links[edit]