Horace Gillom

Horace Albert "Big Horse" Gillom (March 3, 1921 – October 28, 1985) was an American football punter and end in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) and National Football League (NFL). He played ten seasons for the Cleveland Browns between 1947 and 1956. Cleveland head coach Paul Brown, who coached Gillom in high school, college and professionally, called him his best all-around high school player and once said there "has never been a better punter than Horace".

Growing up in Ohio, Gillom played for Brown on the football team at Massillon Washington High School, where he excelled as an end, linebacker and punter. In Gillom's three seasons between 1938 and 1940, Massillon won all of its games and captured two High School Football National Championships. Gillom followed Brown to Ohio State University in 1941, playing on the school's freshman football team before dropping out because of poor grades. He then entered the U.S. Army and served for three years in World War II. Upon his discharge, Gillom enrolled at the University of Nevada, Reno to finish his college career. He led the country in scoring in 1946 but left the school after the season, again because of poor grades.

Gillom signed with the Browns, an AAFC team coached by Brown, in 1947. He handled all of the team's punting chores and played as a utility end on both offense and defense. Gillom's Cleveland teams won three straight AAFC championships before the league dissolved and the Browns were absorbed by the NFL. The Browns won the NFL championship in 1950 and repeated in 1954 and 1955. Gillom was a consistent punter, never averaging below 41.2 yards per kick in a season. His abilities declined in his later years, however, and he was released during the 1956 season. Gillom attempted a comeback in 1961 with the New York Titans of the American Football League, but failed to make the team. He moved to Los Angeles and worked as a security guard for the rest of his life. Gillom died of a heart attack in 1985. He was named in 2007 as a Cleveland Browns Legend, a grouping of the team's best-ever players.

Gillom contributed to the evolution of punting by standing further back from the center than was usual at the time to give himself more room to make kicks. His kicks were also high, which gave the coverage team more time to get down the field and stop punt returns. Gillom's distance from center and emphasis on hang time were followed by later generations of punters.

By Dean Hanley

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