Greatest defensive backs in Cleveland Browns history: #11. Ross Fichtner
Again, we have a converted quarterback on the list with safety Ross Fichtner, who was a star under center for the Purdue Boilermakers in the late 1950s.
He had some big shoes to fill in that role, as he took over for Len Dawson — who wound up having a Pro Football Hall of Fame career once he got rolling in the AFL/NFL. As for Fichtner, he was able to carve his own path as an athletic quarterback who could move the ball with both his arm and legs.
Once he entered the pro draft, he was a second-round pick in the AFL and a third-rounder in the NFL. He decided to join the Browns where he spent the first two seasons honing his skills as a defender. He made appearances in 25 games during his first two seasons, primarily as a reserve — he did have one start as a rookie and two in year two, however.
In his third season, Fichtner started to find his niche as a defensive back and started 10 of 14 games played. He proved to be well worth the time they invested in him, as he had seven interceptions for Cleveland. That was no fluke either as the 6-foot, 185-pound safety continued to find the ball for the Browns.
Once he became a starter, he never had less than two interceptions and had as much as eight in 1966. Overall, he had 27 picks which have him tied for the eighth-most in team history. Fichtner had no problem returning to his offensive roots once he did pick the ball off, as he was credited with 581 yards on interception returns and scored three touchdowns as well.
Fichtner’s son, Randy, also played collegiately for the Boilermakers and is currently the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers.