Who was the best player to wear No. 7 for the Cleveland Browns?
The countdown to the 2020 NFL season is upon us. With 7 days remaining until the Browns season opener, we continue the countdown by celebrating the best Cleveland Browns player to wear number 7: Tom Tupa.
Tupa, a Cleveland native, played his collegiate football for the Ohio State Buckeyes. In 1987, after being the backup for three seasons, Tupa was named the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback. Tupa led Ohio State to a 6-4-1 record. However, Tupa was not just the quarterback, he was also the Buckeyes’ punter for four seasons and was named an All-American at the position in 1987.
The Phoenix Cardinals, you read that correctly, selected Tupa in the 3rd round of the 1988 NFL draft. Tupa was drafted as a quarterback and started 13 games over the course of three seasons, compiling a 4-9 record. After being released by the Cardinals, Tupa’s career as a starting quarterback was effectively over.
After spending three games with the Indianapolis Colts as the third-string quarterback, Tupa reinvented himself. With his career as an NFL quarterback in the rearview, Tupa focused on punting. As with all things, you do not get better at something by not doing it, and Tupa only had six NFL punts in his six-year career. In 1993, Tupa was brought into the Browns training camp to compete for the punter position and was released during roster cutdowns.
Tupa again went to Cleveland’s training camp in 1994, but this time he made the team as the punter and the emergency quarterback. Field position would prove to be vital for the Browns in 1994 who relied on their stingy defense to maintain their leads. Tupa punted 80 times in 1994, averaging 40.1 yards per attempt.
But it was not Tupa’s punting that made history in 1994. In the season opener, after the Browns’ first touchdown, Tupa converted the first two-point conversion in league history by picking the ball up from the holder position and running it across the goal line. Tupa would go on to convert three two-point conversions in 1994 to earn the nickname ‘Two Point Tupa’.
In 1995, Tupa’s 43.6 yards per punt was good enough for seventh in the NFL. Unfortunately, Tupa’s success was not as vital to the team’s wins and losses in his second year with the team. After Art Modell announced that the Browns would be relocating, the team went into a complete freefall.
Tupa would go on to play nine more seasons in the NFL after his time in Cleveland. In 1999, Tupa earned All-Pro honors and his career culminated with a Super Bowl win in 2002, his last season in the NFL. Tupa was inducted into the Greater Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame in 2018.
Although ‘Two Point Tupa’ only played two seasons for the Browns, he is the best player to wear number 7 in team history.