Countdown to 2020: Best Cleveland Browns player to wear No. 12

(Photo by Kirby Lee/NFLPhotoLibrary)
(Photo by Kirby Lee/NFLPhotoLibrary) /

Who is the best player to wear No. 12 for the Cleveland Browns?

The countdown to the 2020 NFL season is upon us. With 12 days remaining until the Browns season opener, we continue the countdown by celebrating the best Cleveland Browns player to ever wear number 12: Don Cockroft.

Don Cockroft was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the third round of the 1967 NFL draft out of Adams State University. While at Adams State, Cockroft excelled as a placekicker and a punter. In 1966, Cockroft led collegiate football averaging just over 48 yards per punt attempt.

The Browns were intrigued enough by Cockroft’s skillset to use a third-round pick on the rookie despite the fact that they already had their placekicker and punter already in place for the 1967 season. Cockroft spent his rookie season on the Browns’ taxi squad and honed his skills. The following season, he would immediately make his mark.

Cockroft handled the placekicking and punting duties for the Browns in 1968. As the Browns kicker, Cockroft was following the legendary Lou ‘The Toe’ Groza, who at the time of his retirement was widely regarded as the best kicker in the history of professional football. He would need to get off to a good start to win the fanbase over. He was able to do just that by leading the NFL in field goal percentage accuracy in 1968.

From there, he went on to handle the kicking and punting duties simultaneously for nine seasons. He is credited for being the last specialist to perform both duties on a full-time basis. Cockroft’s consistency while handling both kicking responsibilities is what separated him from his peers. Cockroft was a top-five placekicker and a top ten punter for the majority of his tenure performing in his dual role.

In 1977, Cockroft began focusing on the role of placekicking solely. He responded by finishing second in the NFL in field-goal accuracy. He would go on to be the placekicker for the Browns for four additional seasons, with his career coming to a close following the 1980 season.

The prominence of the soccer-style field goal kickers was overtaking the NFL towards the end of Cockroft’s career, and as a result, the overall accuracy of kickers was improving. Cockroft being a straight-on kicker had remarkable accuracy considering his style of kicking. At the time of his retirement, Cockroft had the highest career field goal accuracy percentage in NFL history at 65.9 percent.

During his stellar 13-year career, Cockroft led the NFL in field-goal accuracy three times. In three separate seasons, Cockroft made 100 percent of his extra-point attempts and made 94.5% of his extra-point attempts for his career. Cockroft is third in all-time points for the Browns with 1,080 points scored, and first in total yards punted with 26,262.

Cockroft was inducted into the Browns Legends Program in 2007, the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Hall of Fame in 2008, the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in 2013.

Next. Best Cleveland Browns player to wear No. 13. dark

Don Cockroft bridges the gap from Loe ‘The Toe’ all the way to the ‘Kardiac Kids’ and is the best player to wear number 12 for the Cleveland Browns.