Gaylon Smith
Smith at Rhodes College in 1936
Fullback, Defensive end
Personal information
Date of birth: (1916-07-15)July 15, 1916
Place of birth: Lonoke, Arkansas
Date of death: March 10, 1958(1958-03-10) (aged 41)
Place of death: Cleveland, Ohio
Height: 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m) Weight: 202 lb (92 kg)
Career information
College: Rhodes College
NFL Draft: 1939 / Round: 2 / Pick: 13
Debuted in 1939 for the Cleveland Rams
Last played in 1946 for the Cleveland Browns
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics as of 1946
Games     51
Rushing Yards     710
Receiving Yards     256
Stats at
Stats at

Gaylon Wesley Smith (July 15, 1916March 10, 1958) was a professional American football fullback and defensive end who played five seasons for the Cleveland Rams in the National Football League (NFL) and one season for the Cleveland Browns of the All-America Football Conference (AAFC). Before entering professional football, Smith starred as a halfback at Rhodes College and led the country in scoring in 1938. He was selected by the Rams in the second round of the following season's NFL draft and played for the Cleveland team until deciding to retire from the sport in 1943. After taking a job as a personnel director and playing on a regional basketball and baseball teams based in the Cleveland area, Smith joined the U.S. Navy in 1944 during World War II. He was discharged two years later and signed with the Browns, then a new team in the AAFC. Smith was a second-string player with the Browns, but substituted for an injured Marion Motley late in the season as the team won the AAFC championship game. Smith retired after the 1946 season, but stayed in Ohio to raise his family and work as a manufacturer's representative. He died in 1958 at the age of 41.

College careerEdit

Smith grew up in Beebe, Arkansas and attended Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee starting in 1935.[1] He played baseball, basketball and track in college, but he was best known as a star halfback on the school's football team.[2] While Rhodes was a small college, Smith led the country in scoring for two weeks in 1938 and finished the season in third place.[3][4] He was named to All-Dixie teams in 1937 and 1938, and was named a Little All-American in 1938.[4] The Cleveland Rams selected him in the second round of the NFL draft that December.[5]

Professional careerEdit

Smith played for the Rams beginning in 1939. He started out as a halfback, but was shifted to quarterback and then tailback in the 1940 season before moving back to quarterback.[6] He then served primarily as a fullback in 1941 and 1942, and like many players of his era was assigned to both the offensive and defensive units.[7][8]

Smith retired from football after the 1942 season and took a job as personnel director of Thompson Products, Inc., an aerospace, automotive and financial conglomerate based in Ohio.[9][10] Smith played amateur baseball as a catcher and regional professional basketball in 1943.[11][12] He also boxed in an amateur tournament organized by the Cleveland Plain Dealer.[13]

The following year, Smith joined the U.S. Navy during World War II.[14] He reported in May for training at the Great Lakes Naval Station outside of Chicago.[15] At Great Lakes, he played for a military football team coached by Paul Brown.[15]

Following his discharge from the service in early 1946, Smith was signed by Brown to play for the Cleveland Browns, a team under formation in the new All-America Football Conference.[16] The Rams had moved to Los Angeles after the 1945 season, and Smith was one of five former Rams players to stay in Cleveland with the Browns, alongside Tommy Colella, Mike Scarry, Don Greenwood and Chet Adams.[16] He joined the Browns despite a lawsuit filed by the Rams against Adams in which the Rams contended he was still under contract with the team.[17] Smith said he had signed with the "Cleveland Rams" and that the contract said nothing about a move to Los Angeles. "After the Rams moved to the coast, they sent me another agreement specifying a raise in pay, but I didn't sign it," he said. "I decided that if I couldn't play football in Cleveland, I wouldn't play at all."[17] A federal judge eventually ruled in favor of Adams, clearing the way for former Rams players to join the Browns.[18]

Smith was not a regular starter for the Browns when the team started play in 1946, but he got additional playing time toward the end of the season after fullback Marion Motley suffered injuries to his feet.[19] Smith ran for 240 yards and scored five touchdowns as the Browns won the first AAFC championship that year.[20][21] He retired from professional football for good after the season.[22]

Later lifeEdit

Smith was associated in the mid-1950s with a company started by Browns quarterback Otto Graham and Cleveland Indians catcher Jim Hegan that sold gift items including trophies, watches and jewelry to companies for presentation to clients.[23] He also worked for Thompson Products and the National Screw Company as a manufacturer's representative.[1] Smith died in 1958 in Ohio, where he had remained with his family after retiring from football.[1] He had four children with his wife Carol.[1]

Two years after his death, Rhodes College dedicated the Gaylon Smith Memorial Gateway in his honor. He is considered one of the best football players Rhodes has produced.[24] He was inducted into the Rhodes College Athletic Hall of Fame in 1996.[4]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Gaylon Smith, Ex-Ram, Browns Fullback, Dies". Cleveland Plain Dealer: p. 26. March 11, 1958.
  2. Lauderdale, Vance. "Gaylon the Great". Memphis Magazine. Archived from the original on October 7, 2012. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  3. "Bradford Picked For 'All-South'". The Tuscaloosa News. NEA: p. 9. November 17, 1938.,6043205&dq=gaylon-smith&hl=en. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Gaylon Wesley Smith '39". Rhodes College. Archived from the original on October 7, 2012. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  5. "Rams Land 3 All-Americans - Hall, Roth and Smith - in Draft". Cleveland Plain Dealer: p. 16. December 10, 1938.
  6. Dietrich, John (October 18, 1940). "Gaylon Smith Returns to Quarter for Rams Against Cards". Cleveland Plain Dealer: p. 20.
  7. Dietrich, John (November 6, 1942). "Smith Alternates With Hall, Janiak at Fullback". Cleveland Plain Dealer: p. 18. "Gaylon Smith, the squarely built 205-pound Arkansas line crasher who has been the Rams' No. 1 fullback all season, will shift to left half and take over Jacobs' duties. ... Smith is a good passer, though he never has been called upon to do a great deal in this department. He is known to the fans chiefly as a hard-hitting ball carrier, a real power runner and is the team's leading ground gainer."
  8. "Rams Expect To Mold Good Line". Cleveland Plain Dealer: pp. 2C. July 27, 1941. "Gaylon Smith, iron man halfback and fullback, arrived in Cleveland during the week from his native Tennessee, and as usual is in good shape."
  9. Zirin, Alex (May 1, 1943). "Russos Sign .700 Hitter in Rams' Gaylon Smith". Cleveland Plain Dealer: p. 16. "Gaylon Smith, sturdy backfield star of the Cleveland Rams, now personnel director of Thompson Products, Inc., will catch for the Russo Wines in the Class A race for the Plain Dealer trophy, it was announced last night."
  10. "Clark Asks Rams Not to Renew His Contract as Coach". Cleveland Plain Dealer: p. 15. March 11, 1943. "Gaylon Smith, Ram fullback who was the 10th leading ball carrier in the National Football League last fall, yesterday announced his retirement from the grid sport. Smith, employed at Thompson Aircraft Products Co., said he will not play next fall 'whether there is pro football or not'"
  11. Zirin, Alex (March 20, 1943). "Two Games Open Pro Cage Tourney Tonight". Cleveland Plain Dealer: p. 16. "The Tapco line-up includes Gaylon Smith, ex-member of the Cleveland Rams"
  12. Zirin, Alex (July 11, 1943). "Gaylon Smith Belts 'A' Pitchers for .478 Mark to Wipe Grins Off Faces of Skeptics". Cleveland Plain Dealer: p. 3C. "They laughed when they read that Gaylon Smith had murdered the pitching in the fast Memphis (Tenn.) City League for a .700 average, but they're not laughing any longer - not the hurlers in Class A who have to contend with him. ... Averages for the first half race in the Plain Dealer Trophy division show the 27-year-old Russo Wines catcher slammed the apple for a .478 mark in 13 games. He's the same Gaylon Smith who played so well for the Cleveland Rams in the National Football League in 1939, 1940-41-42. Noted for his endurance, he averaged better than 40 minutes of action per game last fall."
  13. "Golden Gloves Boxer Is Star in Cage Game". Cleveland Plain Dealer: p. 18. January 20, 1943. "Gaylon Smith and Richard Ercius, who will box in the Plain Dealer Golden Gloves Tournament, sank 12 and 11 points, respectively, to lead Thompson Aircraft cagers to a 37-24 triumph over Weatherhead in a Northeast Industrial League game at Collinwood last night."
  14. "Gaylon Smith, Ex-Ram Star, to Join Navy". Cleveland Plain Dealer: p. 11. April 19, 1944.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Cobbledick, Gordon (May 4, 1944). "Plain Dealing". Cleveland Plain Dealer: p. 15. "Gaylon Smith, the Cleveland Rams backfield ace, is off to Great Lakes for boot training and probably will play for the naval station eleven next fall."
  16. 16.0 16.1 "Gaylon Smith to Play for Browns". Cleveland Plain Dealer: p. 16. July 24, 1946.
  17. 17.0 17.1 "Cleveland Browns Defy Rams' Suit". The Palm Beach Post. United Press International (Cleveland): p. 7. July 24, 1946.,1659263. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  18. "Judge Upholds Chet Adams' Right to Stay With Browns". Cleveland Plain Dealer: p. 1. August 30, 1946.
  19. Sauerbrei, Harold (November 3, 1946). "Willis Forced To Bench By Illness". Cleveland Plain Dealer: p. 3C. "That will find the veteran Gaylon Smith opening at fullback in place of Marion Motley, whose feet have been giving him trouble."
  20. Script error
  21. "Gaylon Smith NFL Football Statistics". Archived from the original on October 7, 2012. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  22. Sauerbrei, Harold (July 27, 1947). "Browns Are Last Squad To Report". Cleveland Plain Dealer: p. 19. "Fullback Gaylon Smith and Gene Fekete have retired from football."
  23. "Hegan-Graham Is New Battery". Cleveland Plain Dealer: p. 23. February 9, 1954.
  24. "H'coming Ceremony Dedicates Gateway". The Sou'wester: p. 1. October 28, 1960. Archived from the original on October 7, 2012. Retrieved August 14, 2012.


  • Piascik, Andy (2007). The Best Show in Football: The 1946–1955 Cleveland Browns. Lanham, MD: Taylor Trade Publishing. ISBN 978-1-58979-571-6.

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