Pro Football Hall of Fame tackle Mike McCormack passed away early Friday morning at the age of 83.
McCormack earned a starting role as a rookie with the New York Yanks in 1951 before having his NFL career interrupted by military service. His rights were transferred to the Baltimore Colts who, in 1953, dealt him to the Cleveland Browns as part of a 15-player blockbuster trade.
“We are deeply saddened to learn of Mike’s passing and our condolences go out to the entire McCormack family,” stated Steve Perry, the Hall of Fame’s president/executive director. “His contributions to game as a player for the great Browns teams of the 1950s and early ‘60s are etched in history with his place in the Hall of Fame. He also continued to have a brilliant career in the NFL as a coach and team executive following his retirement as a player.”
He was discharged from the U.S. Army and joined the Browns a season later in 1954. At first he was plugged in on defense at middle guard (linebacker) to fill an urgent need caused by the retirement of the famed Bill Willis. McCormack adapted quickly to his new role and his season was highlighted by a crucial play early in the 1954 NFL Championship Game. He forced and recovered a fumble by Detroit’s Bobby Layne when he stripped the ball right from the quarterback’s hands. The turnover that set up an early score for Cleveland en route to a 56-10 win over the Lions.
|While serving in the U.S. Army, Mike McCormack was traded to the Cleveland Browns on March 26, 1953. The 15-player deal is tied for second largest trade in NFL history.
Colts to Browns: T Mike McCormack, DT Don Colo, LB Tom Catlin, DB John Petitbon, G Herschell Forester
Browns to Colts: DB Don Shula, DB Bert Rechichar, DB Carl Taseff, LB Ed Sharkey, E Gern Nagler, QB Harry Agganis, T Dick Batten, T Stu Sheets, G Art Spinney, G Elmer Willhoite.
In 1955, he returned to his familiar role on the offensive line and over the remainder of his career that spanned through his retirement after the 1962 season, he became widely regarded as one of the finest tackles in the game. McCormack was equally adept at run blocker and pass protection helped Cleveland to three championship appearances that including two NFL titles.
We could have played Mike at middle linebacker or on the offensive line,” explained legendary coach Paul Brown. “But his number one niche was offensive right tackle. He was an excellent pass protector but he could also blow people out of there. He was stabilizing factor throughout the period that he played for us.
With McCormack as a key contributor to a well-balanced Browns offensive attack, Cleveland ranked among the top offenses in the NFL during his eight seasons at right tackle. From 1955 to 1962 Cleveland led the league in scoring twice and rushing yards and rushing touchdowns three times.
McCormack was noted as a team leader and served as a Browns captain from 1956 through the end of his 119-game NFL career. In all, he was voted to six Pro Bowls, named first-team All-NFL twice, and all-conference seven times.
He was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1984.
McCormack also had a lengthy post-playing career in the NFL. He began a career in coaching starting as an assistant with the Washington Redskins starting in 1965. He also had three stints as a head coach with the Philadelphia Eagles (1973-75), Baltimore Colts (1980-81), and Seattle Seahawks (1982). He served as Seattle’s president and general manager through 1988.
The following year, he was hired as a key advisor to assist with a campaign to bring an NFL franchise to the Carolinas. McCormack was named the Carolina Panthers first President and served two seasons in that role before retiring after the 1996 season. He became the first member of the Carolina Panthers Hall of Honor.