CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Cleveland Browns have a host of legends who have contributed to the franchise, and on Saturday they honored the team’s greatest quarterback.
The Browns unveiled the statue of legendary quarterback Otto Graham outside First Energy Stadium’s southwest gate. The statue was commissioned by Dee and Jimmy Haslam. The unveiling was part of the Browns’ Fantennial weekend, an NFL-wide initiative to help celebrate the league’s 100th season. There were 39 members of Graham’s family in attendance, including his 95-year-old wife, Beverly.
Along with members of Graham’s family, Browns legends Jim Brown, Bernie Kosar among others were in attendance. Brown is the only other former Brown to have a statue outside the stadium — his is outside the University Hospitals gate.
Browns executive vice president JW Johnson was one of the speakers before the statue was presented. After the event, Johnson spoke of how the team was excited to see Graham’s statue unveiled.
“Great to see all the fans out here supporting it and just excited about a great weekend ahead,” Johnson said.
Ryan Van Name, Graham’s grandson, addressed the crowd about his grandfather, going down a long list of achievements and honors.
“NFL 75th anniversary all-time team, NFL 1950s All-Decade team, 10 championship appearances, four AAFC championships, three NFL championships, nine-team all-league selection and five Pro Bowls,” Van Name said.
“And he was my grandpa. That’s it. No more, no less. And that’s how I thought of him.”
Van Name spoke about how Graham was humble and how he loved Cleveland and its fans. He recalled the first time seeing Graham cry. It was in 1996, when the Art Modell-owned Browns moved to Baltimore.
“He loved this city, and the backbone and resilience that this city has shown over the past decades cannot be rivaled,” Van Name said. “People always talk about having the best fans in the league, but here I can honestly say that I know you are the best fans in the league.”
Van Name later told reporters that he and his family will attend Sunday’s season opener against the Tennessee Titans.
Morris Stevens, 58, was with his wife, Dianne Voyt, 59, at the event. A Cleveland native, Stevens has been a fan since he was a kid. Graham played a bit before his time, but Stevens was appreciative of the team’s history. The unveiling a day before the much-anticipated start of the Browns’ season marks a bridging of two eras.
“We watched the Otto Graham era, we watched the Bill Nelsen era,” Stevens said. “We watched the Brian Sipe era, we watched the (Bernie) Kosar era. Now we get to watch the Baker Mayfield era.”