Who is the best Cleveland Browns player to wear No. 52?
The countdown to the 2020 NFL season is upon us. With 52 days remaining until the Browns season opener, we continue the countdown by celebrating the best Cleveland Browns player to ever wear number 52: Dick Ambrose.
Ambrose was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the 12th round of the 1975 NFL draft out of the University of Virginia. Ambrose was a two-time All-ACC selection while at Virginia. However, he was not viewed as a player who would excel at the next level by NFL scouts. He was perceived as an extra body to bring into training camp. The Browns also selected another linebacker, Jim Cope, seven rounds earlier in the same draft.
To equate Ambrose’s situation in today’s terms, a twelfth-round pick would be the equivalent to an undrafted free agent in current times. More often than not, those players do not make the roster and the likelihood of that player becoming a starter for the better part of a decade is minuscule at best. But as the scouts eventually found out about Ambrose, not everything about a player can be measured.
Ambrose appeared in every game as a rookie and started at middle linebacker for 10 of them. His affinity for contact and his willingness to stick his nose in the action endeared Ambrose to his teammates and the fans. Some nicknames are given, and some are earned, Ambrose earned the nickname ‘Bam Bam’.
After earning his stripes as a rookie, Ambrose’s second season in Cleveland was hindered by injuries. He missed four games and only started in two during the 1976 campaign. However, he bounced back in his third season and began a streak that saw him lead the Browns in tackles for five-straight seasons from 1977 through 1981.
Playing middle linebacker is not just about how you play your position; you are also responsible for making sure that everyone is lining up correctly and communicating efficiently. Ambrose excelled at all facets of the position. In 1980, the Browns made the switch from playing a 4-3 defensive front to a 3-4, which changes everything for the linebackers.
Ambrose was put at right inside linebacker and did not miss a beat. He patrolled the middle along with Robert Jackson for two seasons and then next to Tom Cousineau in 1982. Unfortunately, Ambrose suffered a broken ankle in the sixth game of the 1983 season and he was unable to successfully make a return. After taking the 1984 season off due to the injury and an unsuccessful comeback attempt in the 1985 training camp, Ambrose officially retired.
Ambrose’s life after football has been spent in the service of law and order. He began studying law while still playing professional football and began practicing law in 1987. In 2004, Ambrose was appointed to be a judge on the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas where he remains to this day.
From being a training camp insurance policy to becoming the leader of the Kardiac Kids defense, Ambrose left his mark on the Browns organization. He was inducted to the Greater Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame in 2006, and then later into the Browns Legends Program in 2016. Dick Ambrose is the best player to wear number 52 for the Cleveland Browns.
Honorable Mention: Frank Gatski and D’Qwell Jackson.