Otto Graham was one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, leading the Cleveland Browns to 10 consecutive championship games and winning seven of them. He was also a pioneer of the game, being the first player to wear a facemask after a brutal hit that left him bloodied. But how did Otto Graham die, and what was his legacy?
Aneurysm: The Official Cause of Death
Otto Graham died on December 17, 2003, at the age of 82. The official cause of death was an aneurysm, a bulge or weakness in a blood vessel that can rupture and cause bleeding in the brain or other parts of the body. Graham had been hospitalized for several days before his death, and his family was by his side when he passed away.
Graham had a history of health problems, including a heart attack in 1978 and a stroke in 2002. He also suffered from diabetes and arthritis, and had undergone several surgeries over the years. Despite his ailments, Graham remained active and involved in football and other sports, coaching, broadcasting, and mentoring young players.
The Hit That Changed the Game
One of the most memorable moments of Graham’s career was also one of the most painful. In a game against the San Francisco 49ers in 1953, Graham was hit hard by defensive lineman Art Michalik, who broke Graham’s nose and cheekbone and left him with a gash that required 15 stitches. Graham was taken to the locker room, where the team doctor attached a makeshift plexiglass face protector to his helmet. Graham returned to the game and led the Browns to a 23-21 victory, throwing two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter.
The hit by Michalik was not only a testament to Graham’s toughness and resilience, but also a catalyst for a major change in the game. Graham became the first player to wear a facemask, which soon became a standard piece of equipment for all players. The facemask not only protected the players from facial injuries, but also allowed them to play more aggressively and confidently.
The Legacy of a Legend
Otto Graham was more than just a football player. He was also a leader, a mentor, a coach, and a role model. He was respected and admired by his teammates, opponents, fans, and peers. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965, and was named to the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, the NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team, and the Cleveland Browns Ring of Honor. He also received numerous awards and honors for his achievements on and off the field, including the Big Ten Player of the Year, the NFL Most Valuable Player, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Graham’s influence and impact can still be seen and felt today, as he inspired generations of players and coaches who followed in his footsteps. He was also a pioneer of the passing game, setting records and standards that are still impressive and relevant today. He holds the NFL record for career average yards gained per pass attempt, with 8.63. He also holds the record for the highest career winning percentage for an NFL starting quarterback, at 81.0%.
Otto Graham was a legend of the game, and a legend of life. He left behind a legacy of excellence, courage, and grace that will never be forgotten. He was a true champion, in every sense of the word.