He is considered by many to be the ultimate winner in the history of football. Now, he will be immortalized forever on the shores of Lake Erie.
The Browns announced Tuesday they will honor legendary quarterback Otto Graham by unveiling a statue of his likeness outside FirstEnergy Stadium this season. The events will be part of the team's alumni weekend on Sept. 6-8, with the formal revealing taking place that Saturday afternoon one day prior to the season opener against the Tennessee Titans.
Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam released the following statement:
"As we celebrate the NFL’s 100th season, we are honored to pay tribute to Otto Graham with this timeless sculpture that will properly recognize him not only as one of the Browns’ top players but also as one of pro football’s greatest all-time quarterbacks. This year’s Alumni Weekend will be truly special as we welcome many of our Browns Legends back home in Cleveland, as well as have the opportunity to thank and host many members of Otto Graham’s family."
A graduate of Northwestern, Graham debuted in the Browns inaugural season as a member of the All-American Football Conference in 1946 and spent his entire 10-year career in Cleveland. During that time, he passed for 23,584 yards and a team-record 174 touchdowns. He led his league in passing yards five times, completion percentage four times, and touchdown passes three times.
However, Graham's crowning achievement was leading the Browns to their league championship game every year of his career. The team won the AAFC in each of its four years of existence (including an undefeated season in 1948) before shocking the football world in 1950 and taking the National Football League title during Cleveland's first year in the league. Following three straight losses in the NFL Championship Game, Graham and the Browns rebounded and won the next two, including a 38-14 victory over the Los Angeles Rams in 1955. Graham threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more in what was the final game of his career.
For his exploits on the field, Graham was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965 and later had his No. 14 retired by the Browns. He died in 2003, at the age of 82.
"It’s amazing," Graham's grandson Ryan Vanname, who will attend the ceremony in his place, said of the honor. "I know my family will definitely be proud of the work [the sculptor] did on this because right when I walked in it’s like, 'That’s him. That’s my grandfather.'"
Graham's statue was designed by Lakewood native David L. Deming, whose sculpture of the equally-legendary Jim Brown currently sits outside FirstEnergy Stadium. Deming also is responsible for the statues of Indians greats Bob Feller, Jim Thome, Larry Doby, Lou Boudreau, and Frank Robinson at Progressive Field.
The team says the unveiling of the Graham statue will be open to the public, and several former players will participate in events afterward as part of alumni weekend.