|No. 20, 83|
August 11, 1927|
|Died:||June 30, 1994
Lake City, Iowa
|NFL Draft:||1951 / Round: 5 / Pick: 55|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics|
|Player stats at PFR|
James Robert Doran (August 11, 1927 – June 29, 1994) was a former American football wide receiver in the National Football League (NFL) for the Detroit Lions (1951–1959) and the Dallas Cowboys (1960–1961). He played college football at Iowa State University. He was a two-way player, playing both on offense and defense. He played 94 games as a defensive lineman, usually defensive end, and 115 games as a tight end. Injuries to teammates forced him to also become a tight end during Detroit's 1953 championship season, and he scored from that position in the 1953 NFL Championship Game. He was left unprotected in the 1960 NFL Expansion Draft, and Dallas drafted him. He was the first Pro Bowl player for the Cowboys.
Early life and college career
Because of the small size of Beaver High School, it had no football program, so Doran practiced basketball and baseball. His first exposure to the sport was at Buena Vista College in the fall of 1947, on the "B" team, joining after a short stint in the navy during World War II. He played defensive tackle despite being a relative lightweight at 175 pounds.
Doran transferred to Iowa State University in 1948, joining the track team as a sprinter and throwing the shot put. In 1949, he helped the team post a 5–3–1 record, the school's first winning football season in a span of 14 years, and being named to the all-Big Seven team at offensive end, with 689 yards on 34 catches, breaking the single-season Big Seven receiving mark by over 200 yards.
In 1949 Doran set a national college record against the Oklahoma Sooners by catching eight passes for 203 yards, a mark that remains unbroken in the Iowa State University record book. His 652 yards on 42 receptions and six touchdowns as a senior, earned him first-team All-America and all-Big Seven honors. He was the Cyclone's only football All-American in two decades, and more recently he was voted to the modern all-time all-Big Eight team. Doran closed out his Cyclone career owning virtually every Iowa State and Big Seven receiving mark. He also played in the Hula Bowl and East–West Shrine Game in 1951.
In 1952 he was voted the most valuable player on a Lions team that won the 1952 NFL Championship Game. His teammates nicknamed him the Graham Cracker, because of his ferocious rushing of Otto Graham as a defensive end, in all of the Detroit-Cleveland games he played in.
During the 1953 season he started playing both offense and defense. The biggest play of his pro career occurred in the 1953 NFL Championship Game, when he caught a 33-yard touchdown pass, that pulled out a 17–16 victory. Doran remained playing the offensive end position and led the Lions in receiving in 1957.
At 33 years of age, he was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the 1960 NFL Expansion Draft. Doran was converted to the tight end position, from where he led the team in receptions and yards, during its inaugural season, with 31 catches and 554 yards.
At the end of that first season, he had the distinction of becoming the Cowboys’ first Pro Bowl player in franchise history, and also scoring the Cowboys' first touchdown in franchise history, a 75-yard pass from Eddie LeBaron against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 9/24/1960.
He was released after playing two seasons in Dallas and a total of 11 seasons in the NFL, compiling 212 receptions for 3,667 yards and 24 touchdowns.
On July 22, 1962, Doran signed as a free agent with the Denver Broncos of the American Football League, but his season ended after injuring his back during a victory against the Dallas Texans on August 25.
Honors and later life
Leaving football after the 1965 NFL season, Doran returned to Iowa to farm.
In 1983, he was inducted into the Iowa High School Football Hall of Fame, despite never playing high school football. Doran was deemed an "outstanding example for the young men of the state of Iowa". In 1997, he was inducted into the Iowa State University Athletics Hall of Fame. In 2005, he was inducted into the Iowa Sports Hall of Fame.
He died on June 29, 1994, of a heart attack.