Don Cockroft, who held down the Cleveland Browns placekicking job for 13 seasons, has moved back to his native Colorado after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.
Cockroft, who celebrated his 77th birthday on Sunday, released a statement on Monday delivered by his family via clevelandbrowns.com:
“Thank you for all the support through the years I miss the fans and the people of Ohio. They were very good to me, and I enjoyed the time I spent in both Cleveland and Canton. I am trusting the good Lord to continue to direct my path, and I know He loves us all.”
The Browns selected Cockroft in the third round of the 1967 NFL Draft and he sat behind Pro Football Hall of Famer Lou Groza for a year before taking over as the team’s placekicker and punter. Cockroft’s career started with him being a teammate to Leroy Kelly, Paul Warfield and Gary Collins, and ended it with Brian Sipe, Greg Pruitt and Ozzie Newsome - while also serving as the team’s punter for nine seasons.
While he never made a Pro Bowl, Cockroft kicked for the Browns in playoff games in three decades, led the NFL in extra points made in 1969, and field goal percentage three times — in 1968, 1972 and 1974.
He is third on the franchise’s all-time list for career field goals attempted and field goals made, trailing just Groza and Phil Dawson; first in career punting yards; and third in career points scored.
Cockroft was also part of some of the most memorable games in Browns history, as he:
- made five extra points and a field goal in a 1969 playoff win over the Dallas Cowboys, the last time the Browns won a road playoff game before defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road following the 2020 season;
- converted four extra points and a field goal against the New York Jets in 1970 the first Monday Night Football game;
- had a punt blocked for a touchdown in Cleveland’s six-point loss to the undefeated Miami Dolphins in the 1972 playoffs;
- hit the game-winning field goal in the first overtime game in franchise history, a win over the New England Patriots in 1977;
- missed two field goals in frozen conditions against the Oakland Raiders in a playoff game following the 1980 season.
In retirement, according to clevelandbrowns.com, Cockroft co-authored a book with Bob Moon about the Kardiac Kids called The 1980 Kardiac Kids - Our Untold Stories, was a motivational speaker and volunteered for the local chapters for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
To learn more about the impact of Alzheimer’s Disease, visit the Alzheimer’s Association’s website.