Otto Graham “Automatic Otto”

Otto Everett Graham Jr., nicknamed Automatic Otto due to his multi-sport success, was a professional American football player who played quarterback for the Cleveland Browns from 1946 to 1955.

The 6’1 QB was born on December 6, 1921, in Waukegan, Illinois, and raised in a family of music teachers.

Career Highlights

  • Big Ten Player of the Year (1943)
  • 1943 First-team All-American
  • 1943 First-team All-Big Ten
  • Four-time AAFC champion (1946–1949)
  • 1952 NFL passing touchdowns leader
  • 1952 Second-team All-Pro
  • Three-time NFL champion (1950, 1954, 1955)
  • Five-time Pro Bowl (1950–1954)
  • Four-time First-team All-Pro (1951, 1953–1955)
  • Three-time NFL Most Valuable Player (1951, 1953, 1955)
  • Two time NFL passing yards leader (1952, 1953)
  • Two time NFL passer rating leader (1953, 1955)
  • Three-time First-team All-AAFC (1947–1949)
  • Two-time AAFC Most Valuable Player (1947, 1948)
  • NFL 1950s All-Decade Team
  • NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team
  • NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team
  • Two-time Second-team All-Big Ten (1941, 1942)

NFL Statistics

  • Passing yards: 13,499
  • Completion percentage: 55.7%
  • Passer rating: 78.2
  • Rushing Yards: 682
  • Rushing touchdowns: 33

Records

NFL record for highest career average yards gained per pass attempt — 8.63.

Record for the highest career winning percentage for an NFL starting quarterback (0.810 %)

The first person to have won championships in two out of the four major North American sports, in the NFL and the NBA.

Graham’s career started right from high school. He was initially interested in music under the guidance of his parents, and by the age of 16, he could play various instruments such as the violin, cornet, piano, and French horn, and had even won state and national competitions.

He later gravitated towards sports, starting with basketball, which he excelled in. Graham was the state scoring champion in Illinois. He also played football at this time, and was named to both the All-state basketball and football squads.

Graham entered Northwestern University on a basketball scholarship, where he grew to become the team’s captain. He was also named the MVP of his team and was the second-highest scorer in the Big Ten conference. He played baseball, too, where was third on the team in batting average.

Automatic Otto actually had to be convinced by the team coach, Lynn Waldorf, to join the school’s football team after he saw great potential in him. Fortunately, Graham decided to join the Northwestern football team, performed extremely well, and became a regular starter.

He joined the Navy during World War II and started playing professional basketball afterward with Rochester Royals in the National Basketball League. At the end of that season, he retired from basketball and decided to focus solely on football. Paul Brown, who had watched Otto play in his university days, was forming a new team, and Otto was his first pick.

After WWII, he won the AAFC championship with the newly formed Cleveland Browns and became the first athlete to be on two championship teams in different sports in the same year.

Graham led the team to dominate the league over the next four years, recording 52 wins, four losses, and three ties. They also won the title every year, with Graham topping the league in passing and winning 3 MVPs in the process.

The Browns joined the NFL in 1950, where they faced higher quality opposition. However, this wasn’t enough to stop them as they continued to dominate and won the league, with Graham winning yet another MVP.

In 1953, Graham led the Browns to the title game, which they lost 17-16 to Detroit Lions. He was crowned the MVP that year as well.

Graham wanted to retire after the 1954 season, but was lured back by the Browns, who made him the highest-paid player at the time. He played in the 1955 season, which end up being one of his best.

Graham completed 98 of his 185 passes for 1,721 total yards and 15 touchdowns, recording almost 10 yards per attempt. The Browns also topped the league with a 9-2-1 record, with Graham winning his third and final MVP. He retired after the 1955 season and later worked as a coach from 1959 to 1975.

Otto Graham is one of the most dominant players of his era and one of professional football’s greatest quarterbacks. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965.

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