Frank Gatski

Frank "Gunner" Gatski (March 18, 1921 – November 22, 2005) was an American football center who played for the Cleveland Browns of the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) and the National Football League (NFL) in the 1940s and 1950s. Gatski was one of the most heralded centers of his era. Known for his strength and consistency, he helped protect quarterback Otto Graham and open up running lanes for fullback Marion Motley as the Browns won seven league championships between 1946 and 1955. Gatski won an eighth championship after he was traded to the Detroit Lions in 1957, his final season.

Gatski was born in West Virginia to a coal-mining family. He played for three years on his local high school team before attending Marshall University, where he continued to play football. He joined the U.S. Army in 1942 and went to fight in World War II. Upon his return in 1945, he finished his collegiate studies at Auburn University in Alabama. After graduating, he tried out and made the roster for the Browns, a team under formation in the new AAFC. He played as a linebacker and backup center for most of his first two years before earning a spot as the starting center. He retained that position as Cleveland continued to dominate after the AAFC dissolved and the Browns were absorbed by the NFL in 1950. He retired in 1958, never having missed a game or practice in his career.

After leaving football, Gatski worked briefly as a scout for the Boston Patriots. He then joined a reform school in West Virginia as athletic director and head football coach, staying there until the school closed in 1982. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985. Marshall retired Gatski's number 72 in 2005. He died that year in a nursing home in West Virginia. In 2006, the East End Bridge in Huntington, West Virginia was renamed the Frank Gatski Memorial Bridge in his honor.

By Dean Hanley

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