American Football Database
Cliff Lewis
Date of birth: March 22, 1923
Place of birth: Cleveland, Ohio
Date of death: July 24, 2002 (age 79)
Place of death: Tampa, Florida
Career information
Position(s): Cornerback
College: Duke
NFL Draft: 1946 / Round: 21 / Pick: 200
(By the Los Angeles Rams)
 As player:
1946-1951 Cleveland Browns
Playing stats at
For the linebacker, see Cliff Lewis (American football linebacker).

Clifford A. Lewis (March 22, 1923 - July 24, 2002)[1] was a professional American football player for the Cleveland Browns of the All America Football Conference (1946 - 1949) and National Football League (1950 - 1951).[2] He was the team's first quarterback.[1]


He attended Lakewood High School in Lakewood, Ohio, and Staunton Military Academy in Virginia. Lewis went to Duke University, where he played football as a back.[2] He was a member of the Duke basketball team during the (1944 - 1945) season.[3]

Duke University athlete

Lewis broke his elbow playing tailback for Duke against the University of Pennsylvania in 1944. He returned for a November game against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.[4] Lewis connected with receiver Clark Jones during a Duke 34-0 victory over previously undefeated Wake Forest University, at Wallace Wade Stadium on November 11.[5] He passed to Harold Raether for the final touchdown in a 33-0 triumph over the University of North Carolina, a win which gave Duke a second consecutive Southern Conference title.[6] Lewis' passing assisted Duke in moving the ball 64 yards in the third quarter of the 1944 Sugar Bowl game in New Orleans, Louisiana. All-America Tom Davis carried the ball on eleven of twelve plays of the drive, which ended with him scoring. The Blue Devils won 29-26.[7]

Professional football player

Lewis was a triple threat player and alternate quarterback for the Fleet City, California Bluejackets in 1945.[8] The Bluejackets' starting quarterback was Charlie O'Rourke of the Chicago Bears, while Louis Zontini of Notre Dame University was second team at the position.[9]

The Los Angeles Rams lost Lewis, who had been the 19th draft pick, when NFL commissioner, Bert Bell, ruled him inelligble for the draft under league rules. The Rams selected Lewis with the idea that he was in the 1946 graduating class. Instead he had one more year of collegiate eligibility as an athlete who entered college in 1943.[10]

The Browns signed Lewis in February 1946.[11] Lewis started at quarterback for the Browns in their first three contests in the AAFC in his first season, sharing duties with Otto Graham. He became a safety who also returned punts and kickoffs after Graham won the starting quarterback job early in the 1946 season. As a substitute for Graham, Lewis passed fifty yards to Bob Oristaglio for a touchdown against the Bears, in September 1951.[12] After a 38-23 Cleveland upset of the Rams in October 1951, Lewis was one of three Browns defensive backs credited by quarterback Norm Van Brocklin with giving him difficulty.[13] Lewis returned a Bob Waterfield long pass for twelve yards, to the Cleveland 32, during the Browns 24-17 loss to the Rams, in the 1951 National Football League title game at the Los Angeles Coliseum.[14]

Lewis retired from the Browns to devote full time to his insurance business on July 30, 1952.[15]

Post-NFL career

Lewis worked for two years (1961-62) as a color commentator on Browns television broadcasts, and became vice president of insurance administration for the New York Yankees following the team's purchase by George Steinbrenner in 1973. He participated in the retired players division of the NFL players' golf tournament in Hollywood, Florida, in January 1961.[16]


Lewis died at the age of 79 in Tampa, Florida following an extended illness in 2002.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Cliff Lewis, first Browns QB, dies at 79,, Page 1.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Cliff Lewis,, Page 1.
  3. Penn Easily Beats Princeton, 66 to 52, New York Times, February 11, 1945, Page S1.
  4. Lewis Returns to Duke Squad, New York Times, November 2, 1944, Page 24.
  5. Duke's Long Runs Stop Wake Forest, New York Times, November 12, 1944, Page S3.
  6. Duke Overpowers No. Carolina, 33-0, New York Times, November 26, 1944, Page S4.
  7. Duke's Rally Tops Alabama By 29-26, New York Times, January 2, 1945, Page 13.
  8. Triple-Threat Star, Los Angeles Times, December 4, 1945, Page A8.
  9. The Hyland Fling, Los Angeles Times, December 4, 1945, Page A8.
  10. Rams Lose Two Draftees, Los Angeles Times, May 28, 1946, Page A7.
  11. Return Of Reagan To Gridiron Likely, New York Times, February 20, 1946, Page 37.
  12. Browns Bump Chibears in 32-21 Contest, Los Angeles Times, September 10, 1951, Page C1.
  13. We Were Up; They Were Off, Says Brown, Los Angeles Times, October 8, 1951, Page C1.
  14. Rams Whip Browns, 24-17; Win Pro Title, Los Angeles Times, December 24, 1951, Page C1.
  15. Browns' Quarterback Quits, New York Times, July 31, 1952, Page 19.
  16. National Football Loop Players Keep Miller as Their Attorney, New York Times, January 5, 1961, Page 36.