Paul Brown called him "my Louie." He was "one of Dad's
favorites," says Bengals president Mike Brown, son of Paul, the
legendary Browns coach. "When anyone asked him about Lou Groza,
he'd say, 'A high-grade guy.' Louie's word was solid. You could
count on him."
Groza, who died last week of a heart attack at 76, had been one
of Brown's prize recruits at Ohio State, a big guy for that era
(6'3", 240 pounds) with remarkable agility. He played tackle on
the freshman team in 1941, before World War II ended his college
career. In '45 Groza was serving in a medical unit on Okinawa
when he received a couple of footballs from Brown along with a
reminder to "work on your kicking." Brown also invited Groza to
join his franchise in the nascent All-America Football
Conference. That's how Groza, still with three years of college
eligibility, became a Cleveland Brown. The team won the
championship in all four years of the AAFC and four NFL titles
from '50, when it joined the league, until Groza's retirement in
Groza's kicking earned him his nickname, the Toe, and got him
into the Hall of Fame. But he was also a six-time All-Pro tackle
who was perfect for Brown's revolutionary pass-protection scheme
called cup blocking, in which the linemen picked up the men to
their outside, forming a protective cup for quarterback Otto
Graham. "Fast on his feet, able to glide and shuffle, just what
scouts look for in a pass-blocking tackle nowadays," says Mike
Brown. "Plus Louie could run." Especially downfield: On his
kickoffs he often was the first man in for the tackle.
It's a picture that smacks of antiquity: the kicker who doubled
as a lineman, and a fine one at that. "It's more efficient now,"
says Brown, "but maybe the game lost something when it went to
the pure kickers." With Groza's death it lost a whole lot
COLOR PHOTO: NEIL LEIFER The nimble Groza excelled as a kicker and blocker.