Who is the greatest player to ever wear number 69 for the Cleveland Browns?
The Countdown to the 2020 NFL season is upon us. With 69 days remaining until the Browns season opener, we continue the countdown by celebrating the best Cleveland Browns player to ever wear number 69: Jim Kanicki.
Jim Kanicki was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the second round of the 1963 NFL Draft out of Michigan State University. Kanicki was also selected by the Buffalo Bills in the AFL draft that same year. Kanicki chose to pursue his NFL dreams and play for the Browns.
Kanicki’s rookie year was full of change. At Michigan State, Kanicki was a two-way starter on both of the front lines. The Browns wanted Kanicki to play defensive tackle. That meant that Kanicki was going to have to be a backup initially, as Bob Gain and Frank Parker were firmly entrenched as the starting defensive tackles.
The Cleveland Browns themselves were going through the second drastic change of their organization’s young but wildly successful history. The first change came in 1956, when they had to take the field without quarterback Otto Graham for the first time in franchise history. This next change came from even higher up, when young owner Art Modell decided to replace the legendary Paul Brown with former Browns assistant, Blanton Collier.
This change proved to be more seamless than the previous one. The year after Graham retired, the Browns experienced their first losing season, going 5-7. In 1963, the Browns, under new head coach Blanton Collier put together a 10-4 season.
Kanicki made one start as a rookie, but he was able to build on that during his second season. Both Gain and Parker were supplanted by Dick Modzelewski and Kanicki. Kanicki was the starting right defensive tackle of the future for the Browns.
In Kanicki’s first season as a starter, the Browns defense improved and provided the team with enough grit to get to the NFL Championship. Kanicki was part of a unit that help shut out the Baltimore Colts en route to a 27-0 victory. Kanicki could forever call himself an NFL Champion.
In 1966, the Browns replaced Modzelewski with a second-round draft pick from the previous season, Walter Johnson. Kanicki and Johnson would play three seasons together on the interior of the defensive line. The duo proved to be tremendous at thwarting opposing teams rushing attacks.
Kanicki started for the Browns at right defensive tackle for six seasons before being traded to the New York Giants along with two other players for wide receiver Homer Jones in 1970. Kanicki being traded left a huge void at right defensive tackle, but once again the Browns found themselves a gem in the second round with Jerry Sherk.
Kanicki will be remembered as one the great Cleveland Browns’ defensive tackles that passed the torch from Gain to Sherk. Jim Kanicki is the best player to ever wear number 69 for the franchise.