Gaylon Smith: Loyal Cleveland Ram (And Brown)

Gaylon SmithCleveland Rams fullback Gaylon Smith (44) picks up 18 yards against the New York Giants in an exhibition game, August 30, 1942. Venue is the Akron Rubber Bowl, opened just two years earlier.

Though many have dated innovations in the facemasks to the 1950s — and indeed that is when such protection became commonplace in the NFL — note the early version worn by the bespectacled Giants defender at right (11).

This was Smith’s fourth and last season with the Rams. He entered the U.S. Navy during World War II, played for a military football team coached by the legendary Paul Brown, and upon discharge still was legally committed to the Rams — but, along with four other former Rams players, successfully eluded his contract because the team had moved to Los Angeles. “I decided if I couldn’t play football in Cleveland, I wouldn’t play at all,” he said. Instead he played one more season with the All America Football Conference champion Cleveland Browns, subbing for future Pro Football Hall of Famer Marion Motley.

Smith sadly met an early demise in 1958, dying suddenly at the age of 42 in his Cleveland home. He still is remembered as “Gaylon the Great” in Memphis where he was a star for Southwestern University (now Rhodes College).

(Photo courtesy the Cleveland Press Collection at Cleveland State University.)

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , ,

Comments

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: