Len Ford

Leonard Guy Ford, Jr. (February 18, 1926 – March 14, 1972) was an American football player from 1944 to 1958. He played college football for the University of Michigan and professional football for the Los Angeles Dons, Cleveland Browns and Green Bay Packers. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1976 and the University of Michigan Athletic Hall of Honor in 1996.

Ford was an all-city athlete at his high school in Washington, D.C., and attended Morgan State University after graduating in 1944. After a brief stint in the U.S. Navy the following year, he transferred to Michigan, where he played on the Michigan Wolverines football team as an offensive and defensive end. He played for Michigan from 1945 to 1947 and was a member of the undefeated 1947 team that has been selected as the best team in the history of Michigan football.

Ford was passed over in all 32 rounds of the 1948 NFL Draft, but was selected by the Los Angeles Dons of the rival All-America Football Conference (AAFC), where he played for two seasons as an offensive and defensive end. After the AAFC dissolved in 1949, Ford played eight seasons as a defensive end for the Cleveland Browns. During those eight seasons, the Browns advanced to the NFL championship game seven times, won three championships, and allowed the fewest points in the NFL six times. Ford was one of the dominant defensive players of his era, having a rare combination of size and speed that helped him disrupt opposing offenses and force fumbles. He was selected as a first-team All-NFL player five times and played in four Pro Bowls.

Ford was traded to the Packers in 1958, but played there just one season before retiring. He worked for the Detroit recreation department from 1963 to 1972. He suffered a heart attack and died in 1972 at age 46.

By Dean Hanley

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