Ex-Brown DeLeone dead at 65
CLEVELAND (AP) — Tom DeLeone, the tough-nosed center who made two Pro Bowls during 11 seasons with the Cleveland Browns, has died. He was 65.
DeLeone was the center for Cleveland’s “Kardiac Kids” team led by quarterback Brian Sipe, who was voted the NFL’s MVP in 1980. DeLeone, who played at Ohio State, started 104 games for the Browns.
He was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2011. Good friend and former teammate Doug Dieken was informed Sunday that DeLeone passed away at his home in Park City, Utah.
“He was as feisty as they could be,” said Dieken, the Browns’ longtime radio analyst. “He played for Woody (Hayes) and was gung ho Ohio State. He was just a great teammate. If you were going to get in a fight, you wanted Tom on your side.”
DeLeone was with the Browns from 1974-84 and although he lacked size, he made up for any physical deficiencies with speed and smarts.
“He utilized his skill set,” Dieken said. “He wasn’t the biggest guy in the world, he wasn’t the strongest guy in the world but he was probably the quickest center in the league and he maximized that and he maximized the use of leverage.”
DeLeone was drafted by Cincinnati in the fifth round in 1972 and joined the Browns midway through the 1974 season. He started 92 consecutive games and was named the George Halas Award in 1976 as the league’s most courageous player after he lost his first wife, Susie, to cancer. He made the Pro Bowl in 1979 and 1980.
Following his retirement, DeLeone worked as a criminal investigator with the U.S. Department of Treasury and became a senior special agent within the U.S. Customs Service.
DeLeone is survived by wife Mindy and children Dean, Kent and Rachel.