Louis Roy Groza (January 25, 1924 – November 29, 2000), nicknamed "The Toe", was an American football placekicker and offensive tackle who played his entire career for the Cleveland Browns in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) and National Football League (NFL). Groza was professional football's career kicking and points leader when he retired after the 1967 season. He played in 21 seasons for the Browns, helping the team to win eight league championships in that span. Groza's accuracy and strength as a kicker influenced the development of place-kicking as a specialty; he could kick field goals from beyond 50 yards (46 m) at a time when attempts from that distance were a rarity. He set numerous records for distance and number of field goals kicked during his career.
Groza grew up in an athletic family in Martins Ferry, Ohio. He enrolled at Ohio State University on a scholarship in 1942, but enlisted in the U.S. Army and was sent to serve in World War II after just one year in college. Groza deployed as an army surgical technician in the Pacific theater, where he stayed until returning in 1946 to play for the Browns. Helped by Groza's kicking and play at offensive tackle, the Browns won the AAFC championship every year between 1946 and 1949, when the league disbanded and the Browns were absorbed by the more established NFL. Cleveland won the NFL championship in its first year in the league on a last-minute field goal by Groza. Groza set NFL records for field goals made in 1950, 1952 and 1953. Sporting News named him the league's Most Valuable Player in 1954, when the Browns won another championship. The team repeated as NFL champions in 1955.
Groza retired briefly after the 1959 season due to a back injury, but returned in 1961. He was part of a 1964 team that won another NFL championship. Groza retired for good after the 1967 season. Later in life, he ran an insurance business and served as a team ambassador for the Browns. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1974. In 1992, the Palm Beach County Sports Commission named the Lou Groza Award after him. The award is given annually to the country's best college placekicker. Groza died in 2000 of a heart attack.
By Dean Hanley
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