Lahr on a 1954 football card
No. 80, 24
|Defensive halfback, Safety|
|Date of birth:September 5, 1923|
|Place of birth: Mount Zion, Pennsylvania|
|Date of death: January 19, 1969(aged 45)|
|Place of death: Aurora, Ohio|
|High school: West Wyoming (PA)|
|College: Western Reserve|
|NFL Draft: 1947 / Round: 32 / Pick: 294
(By the Pittsburgh Steelers)
|Debuted in 1949 for the Cleveland Browns|
|Last played in 1959 for the Cleveland Browns|
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
|Stats at pro-football-reference.com|
Warren Lahr (September 5, 1923 – January 19, 1969) was a professional American football defensive back who played for the Cleveland Browns for 11 seasons, mainly in the 1950s. He has the second-most career interceptions in Browns team history, with 44.
Lahr grew up in Pennsylvania and played on his local high school's football team. After graduating, he attended Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio and played football there as a reserve in 1942. He then served for three years in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He returned to Western Reserve in 1946 and became a star for the team as a left halfback for two seasons.
Lahr was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers of the National Football League (NFL) in the 1947 draft. He signed, however, with the Browns of the rival All-America Football Conference (AAFC). Lahr sat out the 1948 season with an injured knee, but quickly became a regular on defense the following season. He stayed with the Browns through 1959, a period during which the team won one AAFC championship and three NFL championships after merging into that league in 1950.
Lahr has the second-most career interceptions in Browns history, trailing only Thom Darden. After leaving the Browns, Lahr settled in Aurora, Ohio and served as a color commentator for Browns games between 1963 and 1967. He died of a heart attack in 1969 at the age of 45.
Early life and college
Lahr Grew up in West Wyoming, Pennsylvania, a small town in the eastern part of the state. He attended West Wyoming High School, where he was a standout on the football team. West Wyoming, however, did not have a strong team, and Lahr's only college scholarship offer came from Western Reserve University, a small school in Cleveland, Ohio. Lahr graduated in 1941 and enrolled at Western Reserve.
Lahr began as a reserve player under Western Reserve head coach Tom Davies in 1942, when he was a sophomore. He played halfback for the Western Reserve Red Cats. His college career was interrupted, however, by three years of service in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Lahr returned to Western Reserve in 1946 and had a successful junior season as a left halfback. The Red Cats went undefeated against four rival Cleveland schools, and Lahr was named to an 11-member city all-star team after the season. He also won the school's Jack Dempsey Adam Hat trophy for his performance.
Lahr figured prominently in Western Reserve's offense as a senior in 1947. He was switched from halfback to quarterback midway through the season. The team, however, was less successful than the previous year.
After the season, officials at the Mid-American Conference, of which Western Reserve was a member, ruled that Lahr and other players who had served in the war could have an extra year of eligibility to play football. Lahr had exhausted his eligibility by playing in 1942, 1946 and 1947, but was not expected to have enough course credits to graduate until 1949. Lahr, however, decided to forego his extra year at Western Reserve and signed with the Cleveland Browns, a professional team in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) coached by Paul Brown. Lahr was also selected by the National Football League's Pittsburgh Steelers late in the NFL draft.
Lahr came to the Browns in 1948 as a third-string quarterback, but had to sit out while recovering from a knee injury he suffered before the season began. The Browns went undefeated in 1948 and won a third straight AAFC championship.
Lahr's first playing time with the team came in 1949, when Cleveland again won the AAFC championship. Brown came close to cutting Lahr when he made a mistake on defense during a preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers. Lahr, however, made the team and started the year as a left halfback. He was switched to safety in the middle of the season and played primarily on defense after Browns starter Cliff Lewis was injured. Substituting for Lewis, Lahr quickly became a regular starter on defense and finished the year with four interceptions. One of his interceptions came at the end of a divisional playoff game against the Buffalo Bills and helped the Browns retain a 24–21 lead.
The AAFC dissolved after the 1949 season and the Browns were absorbed by the NFL. Lahr stayed with the team after the transition and was a mainstay of the defensive backfield throughout the 1950s, playing opposite Tommy James. The Browns won the NFL championship in their first year in the league, when Lahr recorded eight interceptions, including two he ran back for touchdowns. He had two interceptions in the Browns' 30–28 win over the Los Angeles Rams in the championship game.
Lahr continued to play mainly as a defensive left halfback in the following seasons, although he spent time at safety in 1952. The Browns advanced to the NFL championship each year between 1951 and 1953, but lost once to the Rams and twice to the Detroit Lions. Lahr was named a first-team All-Pro by sportswriters in 1951, when he had five interceptions and returned two of them for touchdowns. His blown coverage on a late-game touchdown catch by Jim Doran of the Lions in the 1953 championship was a major factor in the Browns loss. He was nevertheless named to the Pro Bowl after the season, having made five interceptions and returned them for 119 yards. The Browns repeated as NFL champions in 1954 and 1955 behind a strong defense and an offensive attack led by quarterback Otto Graham. Lahr was named a first-team All-Pro for the second time in 1956.
Cleveland reached the NFL championship in 1957, losing to the Lions, and made the playoffs in 1958. Lahr stayed with the Browns through the 1959 season, when he was switched from defensive halfback to safety. He had 44 interceptions in his Browns career, the second-most in team history behind Thom Darden. He also ran back five interceptions for touchdowns, which remains a team record.
Later life and death
After retiring from football, Lahr settled in Aurora, Ohio and served as the color commentator alongside announcer Ken Coleman for Browns games broadcast on WJW channel 8 in Cleveland between 1963 and 1967. He was dropped when CBS made changes to its broadcasting lineup in 1968, but continued to work on preseason games. He also worked as a sales agent for Lax Industries in Cleveland and ran a sporting goods business with his close friend Ed Lewis, the athletic director at Adelbert College, which was part of Western Reserve.
Lahr died suddenly of a heart attack in 1969, when he was 45 years old. He had recently passed a physical examination, but had come down with the flu the previous week. He and his wife, Rowena, had five daughters. In 2008, Lahr was named a Browns Legend, an honor given by the franchise to a selection of the best players in its history.
- "Ex-Browns Star Lahr, 45, Dies". Cleveland Plain Dealer. January 20, 1969. p. 51.
- Erzar, John (November 7, 1999). "Unsung Hero West Wyoming's Warren Lahr Played In 7 NFL Title Games". Times Leader. p. 1C. Archived from the original on July 27, 2013. Retrieved July 27, 2013.
- "8 Reserve Letter Men Face Akron in Opener". Cleveland Plain Dealer. September 14, 1942. p. 20.
- Porter 1995, p. 463.
- Heaton, Charles (October 5, 1946). "Reserve Rallies to Win, 20–13; Cardinals Plan No 'Williams Shift'". Cleveland Plain Dealer. p. 13.
Warren Lahr's broken field running and accurate aerials kept the Reserve attack throughout three quarters of the game and set up the first scores ...
- Heaton, Charles (October 15, 1946). "Phillips And St. Germaine Bid To Halt Reserve's Lahr". Cleveland Plain Dealer. p. 17.
... the Red Cat attack, spearheaded by the brilliant Warren Lahr, poses a real problem for this left side.
- Heaton, Charles (November 29, 1946). "Reserve Scores 3 Fourth-Period Touchdowns to Rout Case, 24–0". Cleveland Plain Dealer. p. 16.
- Heaton, Charles (December 10, 1946). "Big 4 Coaches Unanimous On Three Choices". Cleveland Plain Dealer. p. 20.
- "Adelbert Thwig Award Goes to Senior Class President". Cleveland Plain Dealer. May 17, 1947. p. 14.
- Heaton, Charles (November 6, 1947). "2 Linemen Return to Frisky Red Cat Squad". Cleveland Plain Dealer. p. 24.
- Heaton, Charles (December 1, 1947). "Lahr Is Eligible To Play Another Year At Reserve". Cleveland Plain Dealer. p. 24.
- Sauerbrei, Harold (December 4, 1947). "Lahr Signs With Browns' Eleven". Cleveland Plain Dealer. p. 26.
- Pettica, Mike (June 23, 2013). "Cleveland Browns' 100 best all-time players: No. 29, Warren Lahr". Cleveland Plain Dealer. Archived from the original on August 1, 2013. Retrieved July 29, 2013.
- Sauerbrei, Harold (September 3, 1948). "Browns Tackle Los Angeles in Opener Before 55,000 Tonight". Cleveland Plain Dealer. p. 20.
Definitely out of the game ... is Warren Lahr, third-string quarterback who has a wrenched knee.
- Sauerbrei, Harold (October 1, 1948). "Colella Preps To Halt Colt Passes". Cleveland Plain Dealer. p. 26.
Warren Lahr was with them, too, the former Reserve star working out with the team daily though he is on the injured-reserve list.
- Piascik 2007, pp. 118–119.
- Piascik 2007, pp. 144–146.
- Sauerbrei, Harold (September 13, 1949). "Lahr Eases Brown's Worries on Air Defense for Yankees Here Sunday". Cleveland Plain Dealer. p. 18.
- "Warren Lahr NFL Football Statistics". Pro Football Reference. Archived from the original on July 30, 2013. Retrieved July 30, 2013.
- Piascik 2007, p. 124.
- Piascik 2007, pp. 140–142.
- Piascik 2007, pp. 181–182.
- Piascik 2007, pp. 233–234, 251–253, 276–281.
- Piascik 2007, pp. 324–235, 340–342.
- "Ex-Browns Great Lahr Pronounced Sound, Dies". Toledo Blade (Cleveland). Associated Press. January 20, 1969. p. 18.
- "Browns Legends". Cleveland Browns. Archived from the original on August 1, 2013. Retrieved July 31, 2013.
- Porter, David L. (1995). Biographical Dictionary of American Sports: 1992-1995 Supplement for Baseball, Football, Basketball, and Other Sports. Westport, CT: Greenwood. ISBN 978-0-313-28431-1.
- Piascik, Andy (2007). The Best Show in Football: The 1946–1955 Cleveland Browns. Lanham, MD: Taylor Trade Publishing. ISBN 978-1-58979-571-6.