Countdown to 2020: Best Cleveland Browns player to wear No. 26
Who was the best player to wear number 26 for the Cleveland Browns?
The countdown to the 2020 NFL season is upon us. With 26 days remaining until the Browns season opener, we continue the countdown by celebrating the best Cleveland Browns player to ever wear number 26: Ray Renfro.
Ray Renfro was selected by the Browns in the fourth round of the 1952 NFL draft out of the University of North Texas. Renfro was a speed demon of a halfback for the Mean Green. At the time he was selected by the Browns, Renfro was the highest drafted player in North Texas’ history.
Renfro brought a unique skill set to Cleveland, but with the running backs already set, coach Paul Brown had to figure out a way to use his speedy rookie. Brown decided to let Renfro be the primary kickoff returner, as well as letting the rookie handle some punt returns. Renfro only carried the ball 10 times his rookie year and caught one solitary pass.
However, in Renfro’s sophomore campaign, coach Brown figured out a way to use his young weapon in a multitude of ways. Although Renfro did not start any games for the Browns, he ran the ball 60 times for 352 yards and four touchdowns and caught 39 passes for 722 yards and another four scores. Renfro was voted to the Pro Bowl in his breakout season.
In 1954 Renfro became a permanent fixture in the Browns starting lineup, although he would move back and forth from halfback to flanker in his first couple of years as a starter. By 1957 Renfro had asserted himself as one of the most dangerous receivers in the NFL. Also, in 1957 the Browns drafted Jim Brown and the move freed up Renfro to flourish as more of a pure pass catcher and he would be voted to his second Pro Bowl.
Renfro would go on to start at right halfback for one season in 1958 but only rushed the ball three times. Despite lining up in the backfield, Renfro caught 24 passes for 573 yards and six touchdowns in 1958. He would return to the flanker position for the remainder of his career.
Renfro would go on to start at flanker for the Browns for the next four seasons and led the Browns in receiving yards in two of those seasons. By the time Renfro retired after the 1963 season, he was the Browns career receiving leader in both touchdowns and yards. Despite retiring 58 years ago, Renfro is still second in team history with 5,508 receiving yards and third place in team history with 50 receiving touchdowns.
Renfro was a member of the first class to be inducted into the Browns Legends Program in 2001. He was a two-time NFL Champion and a three-time Pro Bowler as a player and would even go on to win a Super Bowl as a quarterback and receiver coach for the Dallas Cowboys.
Ray Renfro was a weapon before his time and he is the best player in Browns’ history to wear number 26.