Who is the best player to ever wear number 50 for the Cleveland Browns?
The countdown to the 2020 NFL season is upon us. With 50 days remaining until the Browns season opener, we continue the countdown by celebrating the best Cleveland Browns player to ever wear number 50: Vince Costello.
Vince Costello did not begin his legendary career as a Cleveland Browns middle linebacker until he was 25 years old. A native of northern Ohio, Costello attended Ohio University where he played football, baseball, and basketball. After college, Costello spent two years in the Cincinnati Reds farm system before joining the Air Force.
One of Costello’s former football coaches while at Ohio University, Howard Binker, was now a defensive assistant for the Browns. After his service has ended, Binker was able to get Costello an invitation to compete at the Browns training camp in 1956. Costello impressed head coach Paul Brown with his athleticism and instincts but suffered a hamstring injury during camp. Feeling that Costello would not be able to contribute that season because of the injury, Brown encouraged him to sit out the 1956 season and report back to training camp the following season.
Costello heeded the legendary coach’s advice and returned to Browns’ training camp in 1957. After spending the 1956 season honing and refining his football skills, Costello seized his opportunity and won the starting middle linebacker spot in his second training camp. The 25-year-old rookie spent the next 10 seasons quarterbacking the Browns defense.
The iconic linebackers of the late 1950s and 1960s were in the mold of powerful thumpers like Sam Huff and Ray Nitschke. Costello was a different breed of middle linebacker altogether. He was powerful enough to hold his ground and stuff the run, but where Costello separated himself was his ability to be a factor in pass coverage. Costello’s athletic background playing basketball gave him the capability to anticipate throwing lanes and the agility to converge on the ball.
Costello’s 18 interceptions as a member of the Browns remain the most for a linebacker in team history. On two separate occasions, Costello recovered fumbles and returned them touchdowns. He is still tied for the most fumble recovery touchdowns.
Costello started 124 regular-season games at middle linebacker while he was a member of the Browns. In addition, he was the starting linebacker for three championship games, including the 1964 27-0 shutout of the Baltimore Colts. His late first-half interception in the 1964 championship game came while the Colts were driving and stalled their momentum preserving the shutout.
Costello was traded to the New York Giants following the 1966 season. In 1967, Costello intercepted four passes including one against the Browns that helped New York edge Cleveland. He retired from professional football after the 1968 season.
He was a Cleveland defensive stalwart for 10 seasons, and in 2011 Costello was inducted into the Browns Legends Program. Vince Costello was a player before his time and is the best ever to wear number 50 for the Cleveland Browns.