Two-time Pro Bowler who was also recently inducted into the Legends Club for the Browns, Tom DeLeone, died Sunday morning. He was one of three centers to make multiple Pro Bowls.
DeLeone played for the Browns from 1974-1984 as the center and was mostly remembered for his 1980 role on the “Kardiac Kids” team. DeLeone started 104 games and appeared in 176.
The former Browns center was born in Ravenna, but grew up in Kent. Standing at 6-foot-2 and weighing 248 pounds, DeLeone proved to be tough and have grit throughout his career. DeLeone was also an Ohio State alum.
“He wasn't the biggest guy in the world, he wasn't the strongest guy in the world but he was probably the quickest center in the league and he maximized that and he maximized the use of leverage,” said Doug Dieken, teammate of DeLeone’s and also a member of the Kardiac Kids offensive line.
“He played for Wood (Hayes) and was gung ho Ohio State. He was just a great teammate. If you were going to get in a fight, you wanted Tom on your side.”
He started the first two seasons of his career with the Bengals, then became the Browns’ starting center in 1975. He was the triggerman and protector for Browns quarterback, Brian Sipe, the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 1980.
Upon retirement, DeLeone spent time working as a criminal investigator with the U.S. Department of Treasury, and soon enough became the senior special agent within the U.S. Customs Service and member of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Taskforce in Salt Lake City, Utah in 2002 during the Olympic Games.
After retiring from Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2007, Deleone continued being active as he took on the role of a substitute teacher and was an assistant high school football coach.
In his final years, DeLeone had a fight with brain cancer, a diagnosis given to him in 2011. He resided in Park City, Utah, where teammates would often visit him.
DeLeone was a member of the Hall of Fames of Kent City Schools and Ohio State .He also earned the George Halas Award in 1976 as the NFL’s most courageous player, a title that he earned for continuing to play despite the death of his first wife, Susie.
Tom DeLeone is survived by his wife, Mindy, and their three children: Dean, Kent, and Rachel.
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