Mac Speedie Cleveland Browns
“Hurdling is all speed, balance and perfect timing. I think that helped me more than anything else in becoming successful in football.”
Mac Curtis Speedie was born on January 12, 1920 in Odell, Illinois. Speedie was crippled during his childhood by Perthes disease (a bone deficiency), but he overcame what doctors feared would be a lifelong handicap. During his time at the University of Utah, Speedie played football and basketball, but was best known for running track – specifically running hurdles – which Speedie felt helped him to excel on the gridiron.
Speedie was drafted in the 15th round of the 1942 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions. However, he enlisted in the U.S. Army that March in the midst of World War II and never played for the Lions. While he was with the Fort Warren service team, he caught the attention of Cleveland Browns Head Coach Paul Brown. As a result, Speedie signed with the Browns as a defensive end but quickly converted to the offensive side of ball and created a lethal 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.
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 1940s.
In 1953, Speedie joined a third professional football league, the Western Interprovincial Football Union in Canada playing three seasons, 1953-55. In 1960, Speedie returned to football as an end coach with the Houston Oilers of the New American Football League. After two seasons, he moved to Denver as the offensive end coach and took over the head coaching during the 1964 season where he remained for a couple years.