Cleveland Browns: Former center Tom DeLeone passes away
By Thomas Moore
Former Cleveland Browns center Tom DeLeone, a mainstay on the Kardiac Kids teams, has passed away at the age of 65.
Tom DeLeone, a two-time Pro Bowl center for the Cleveland Browns, passed away early Sunday morning at the age of 65 after a battle with brain cancer.
The news was reported by Nate Ulrich at The Akron Beacon Journal and confirmed by the Browns.
DeLeone was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the fifth round of the 1972 NFL Draft out of Ohio State. He spent two years in Cincinnati before being traded to the Atlanta Falcons, who put DeLeone on waivers after he was injured. The Houston Oilers claimed him only to release him a few days later. He finally returned home to Northeast Ohio when the Browns signed him midway through the 1974 season.
Over the next 11 years in Cleveland, DeLeone played in 149 games, making 104 starts, and became one of just three centers in franchise history to make multiple Pro Bowls, joining Alex Mack and John Morrow.
He took as the Browns center in 1975 and went on to make 92 consecutive starts, including all 16 in the Kardiac Kids season of 1980. He was named the George Halas Award recipient in 1976 as the NFL’s most courageous player after playing on after the loss of his first wife due to cancer.
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“Every day, Tom empowered the people around him to play better than even they thought they could,” former Browns coach Sam Rutigliano told The Plain Dealer in 2012. “He had those kind of traits that I call ‘undefinable.’ I was with five NFL teams. He was so tough, so smart. A great leader. He was as good a center as anybody on any team I was with.”
In 2011, the team inducted DeLeone into the Cleveland Browns Legends club.
“You didn’t touch (quarterback) Brian Sipe with Tom around,” Doug Dieken, a teammate for 11 years, said at the time of DeLeone’s induction. “Tom played a major role in the success Brian had as an individual, and also that we had as an offense, especially during that Kardiac Kids season in 1980.”
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Following his retirement after the 1984 season, DeLeone spent 22 years in law enforcement, working with the U.S. Treasury Department and with an anti-terrorism unit.