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The best player to wear No. 22 in Browns history

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Defensive back Clarence Scott gets the nod in a very tight race.

Baltimore Colts v Cleveland Browns

The search for the best Cleveland Browns player to wear uniform No. 22 comes down to three players, all of whom make a very convincing case.

First up is defensive back Clarence Scott, the team’s first-round selection in the 1971 NFL Draft out of Kansas State.

Scott, who had earned First Team All-America honors from The Sporting News as a senior for the Wildcats, quickly moved into the starting lineup for the Browns as a rookie and rarely left it during his career.

Opening his career at left cornerback before eventually transitioning to safety in 1979, Scott started 166 out of 186 games during his 13 seasons with the Browns and made the Pro Bowl following the 1973 season. His 39 interceptions are still third-most in franchise history. He was joined in the secondary by safety Thom Darden, the franchise’s leader in career interceptions, from 1972 through 1981, which gave the Browns a defensive backfield that posed plenty of problems for opposing quarterbacks.

The Browns inducted Scott into its Legends Club in 2012, at which time Scott reflected on his connection to the Browns, which began as a child growing up in Decatur, Ga., according to a 2012 article in The News-Herald:

“I’ve been a Cleveland Browns fan since sixth grade. Jim Brown was my favorite player. We got a lot of East Coast games - Browns Redskins, Giants - and Cleveland was my favorite team. Then in ’71 I got drafted by the Browns, played my entire career in Cleveland and never put on another uniform. To me, that says everything. This is the community I attached myself to long before they drafted me. This is heaven on earth for me to be part of this great organization.”

The next candidate is safety Felix Wright, who took one of the more improbable paths to the NFL, where he played for the Browns from 1985 to 1990.

Wright was not only undrafted coming out of Drake in 1980, he did not even receive an offer from a single NFL team for so much as a tryout. So Wright decided to become a coach at a high school in Joplin, Mo., where he was on staff with the football, basketball and track teams.

Not content to just sit on the sidelines, Wright would often join in the drills and was encouraged by his fellow coaches to give professional football another shot.

Wright attended a tryout with the Houston Oilers and was one of just three players out of 300 who received an offer. He only lasted three preseason games before being released, however, and then found his way to the Hamilton Tiger Cats of the Canadian Football League.

It was three years before the NFL came calling again, and this time Wright had interested from five teams before he settled on the Browns because he liked the fact that head coach Marty Schottenheimer was open to having the best players on the field regardless of where they came from.

With Wright as one of the anchors of the secondary, the Browns went to the playoffs five times in six seasons, with three trips to the AFC Championship Game. His most memorable game may have come against the Los Angeles Rams on Monday Night Football in 1987, when he had two interceptions and returned one for a 40-yard touchdown, in a 30-17 Cleveland victory.

Wright led the league in interceptions in 1989 with nine, and finished his Browns career with 26 interceptions, putting him in a tie for tenth place with cornerback Hanford Dixon on the franchise’s all-time list.

Finally, we come to safety Kenny Konz, who played for the Browns from 1953 through 1959, appearing in four title games and making one Pro Bowl.

Konz was the team’s first-round selection in 1951 out of LSU - even back then the Browns were keen on hitting up the SEC for players — but did not join the Browns until 1953 after completing a two-year commitment to the U.S. Air Force.

Once on the roster, Konz moved into the starting lineup and would go on to make 67 starts with the Browns, and finished with 30 career interceptions — No. 5 on the franchise’s all-time list — and returned four of them for touchdowns, which is second-best in franchise history.

Konz also game up big on the postseason, intercepting a pair of passes in both the 1954 NFL Championship Game win over the Detroit Lions and the 1955 NFL Championship Game win over the Los Angeles Rams.

Not content to simply play defense, Konz also led the NFL in punt returns in 1956 with an average of 14.4 yards per return, and served as Cleveland’s punter in 1957, averaging 39.3 yards per punt.

Wright’s play as one of the mainstays of the Browns of the late 1980s certainly puts him in the running as the best player to wear No. 22 in franchise history, as does Konz’ role on the dynasty years of the Browns in the 1950s.

But Scott’s longevity and overall play helps give him the nod in a tight race.

Notable exception: Frank Gatski, who played center for the Browns from 1946 through 1956. Gatski won eight championships as a member of the Browns and is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but he wore No. 22 only during the team’s first two years in the NFL before switching to No. 52 in 1952, the first of his three First Team All-Pro seasons. We’ll be circling back to Gatski a bit down the road.

Poll

Who was the best player to wear No. 22 in Browns history?

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    Frank Gatski
    (16 votes)
  • 0%
    Rex Bumgardner
    (1 vote)
  • 4%
    Kenny Konz
    (11 votes)
  • 0%
    Rich Mostardo
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Tom Watkins
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Lowell Caylor
    (0 votes)
  • 1%
    Bobby Franklin
    (4 votes)
  • 43%
    Clarence Scott
    (103 votes)
  • 35%
    Felix Wright
    (83 votes)
  • 0%
    Perry Kemp
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Vince Newsome
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Selwyn Jones
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Ricky Powers
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Tim McTyer
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Todd Franze
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Michael Jameson
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Brandon McDonald
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Derrick Roberson
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Mike Bell
    (0 votes)
  • 5%
    Buster Skrine
    (12 votes)
  • 0%
    Tramon Williams
    (0 votes)
  • 2%
    Jabrill Peppers
    (6 votes)
  • 0%
    Eric Murray
    (0 votes)
236 votes total Vote Now