By Kate Arhar // @ClvlndK8
In the 15th round of the 1942 NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions selected Mac Speedie (January 12, 1920 – March 5, 1993).
But instead of starting a professional football career in the midst of World War II, Speedie enlisted in the U.S. Army and never played for them.
After four years of military service, he caught the attention of Cleveland Browns Head Coach Paul Brown. Moving to the end position on the offense, he quickly became a pass-catching dynamo… which is why he is a part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Centennial Class of 2020.
Speedie was crippled in his childhood by a bone deficiency called Perthes disease. Doctors warned he would suffer from this lifelong handicap, but Speedie would not be deterred. He went to the University of Utah, where he played football and basketball but was best known for running track. His skill running the hurdles is something Speedie felt helped him to excel on the gridiron.
His pro career in Cleveland was highlighted by being half of a proficient receiving duo with Hall of Famer Dante Lavelli. During his first season, Speedie only caught 24 passes but was the All-America Football Conference’s leading pass receiver over the next three seasons. Speedie’s standout career-play came in 1948 when he caught a screen pass from Otto Graham and ran 99 yards for a touchdown against the Buffalo Bills.
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) December 19, 2019
Speedie established every major receiving record in the four-year history of the AAFC and led the AAFC in receptions three times (1947-49) and NFL once (1952). He made the United Press all-league team in 1950 and 1952. He played in six league championship games during his seven years with Cleveland. Speedie started in 74 of his 86 career games – which was a feat for a player during his era.
During his seven years with the Browns, Speedie’s career totals included 349 receptions for 5,602 yards and 33 touchdowns. He was named All-Pro three times, All-AAFC four times, All-NFL twice, and the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1940s.
#Browns Legend Mac Speedie selected for Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Centennial Class
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) January 15, 2020
In 1953, however, Speedie left the team for the Western Interprovincial Football Union (WIFU) amid a conflict with Paul Brown, Cleveland’s head coach. He played for two seasons before retiring from the playing field. He held coaching positions with both the Houston Oilers and Denver Broncos before finding his eventual role on the Broncos scouting squad (1966-1982).
Mac Speedie passed away in 1993 but will be posthumously enshrined in Canton with the Class of 2020.
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