Story of the Week
Marion Motley had more to deal with than defensive linemen and blitzing linebackers. At 6-1, 240, he could handle them. But as one of the first black players in modern pro football, Motley was subjected to brutal tactics and cheap shots.
It was a rare pileup in which someone didn’t "accidentally" stomp on his hand, or fling an elbow at his head. Motley had such vivid recollections of the first official, a guy named Tommy Hughitt, who finally determined that enough was enough, and threw the flag. He always remembered Hughitt’s name.
Within the rules, Motley needed help from no one. Although he is remembered as the consummate power runner, he and Cleveland Browns teammate and quarterback, Otto Graham, accidentally invented a play that has become one of the most common in the sport, the screen pass.
Motley was a superb blocker. He was ostensibly Graham’s bodyguard. As the story goes, on a particular play, Motley dropped back to pick off a pass-rusher. The tackler broke through, and Graham, in trouble, turned and spotted Motley, and flipped him the ball. Thus was created one of the most terrifying sights in sports.
Marion Motley standing still was one thing. But Marion Motley with a full head of steam was something else. There is a film at the Pro Football Hall of Fame that shows Motley catching a little swing pass, going down the sideline, knocking players out of the way, and all this after getting his helmet knocked off.
Cleveland coach Paul Brown met Motley in 1945 when Brown was coaching at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center. Later, when Brown was putting together the Browns for the All-America Football Conference, tapping Marion Motley for his fullback was something of a gamble in that Motley was 26 at the time after a stint in the Navy.
But Motley made an immediate impact, and so did the Browns. After winning the AAFC championship in each of the four years that league existed, Cleveland entered the NFL in 1950. Motley, now 30, led the NFL in rushing. In one game against Pittsburgh, he gained 188 yards on just 11 carries, and that 17.09 yards-per-carry average for a game is still an NFL record. In his eight pro seasons, Motley averaged a whopping 5.7 yards per carry.
In 1968, Marion Motley became the first black player to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Last Week’s Trivia
Who broke the seemingly unbreakable NHL record set by Bobby Orr of 46 goals by a defenseman in one season? Paul Coffey recorded 48 of his own in the 1985-86 season.
Trivia Question of the Week
Who owns the record for most hits by a major leaguer in one game? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.