George Lilja
No. 62     
Personal information
Date of birth: (1958-03-03) March 3, 1958 (age 61)
Place of birth: Evergreen Park, Illinois
Career information
College: Michigan
NFL Draft: 1981 / Round: 4 / Pick:
Debuted in 1981 for the [[{{{debutteam}}}]]
Last played in 1987 for the [[{{{finalteam}}}]]
Career history
Los Angeles Rams (1982)
New York Jets (1983-1984)
Cleveland Browns (1984-1986)
Dallas Cowboys (1987)
Career highlights and awards

1980 First Team All American

Games Played     54
Seasons Played     6
Fumbles     1
Stats at

George Vincent Lilja (born March 3, 1958) is a former professional American football offensive lineman who played for several National Football League teams over the course of six seasons. He is also a former collegiate All-American center for the Michigan Wolverines football team. He was a member of the 1980 Big Ten Conference Champions who played in the 1981 Rose Bowl.

College careerEdit


Lilja and the 1980 Big Ten Champions appeared in the Rose Bowl.

Lilja attended Carl Sandburg High School in Orland Park, Illinois where he was both a baseball and football standout before enrolling at the University of Michigan.[1] Lilja played center for the Michigan Wolverines from 1979-1980. At 6'4" and 260 pounds, Lilja started 24 straight games at center during his junior and senior seasons. As a senior in 1980, Lilja received numerous awards and honors, including being named the team's co-captain (with Anthony Carter), receiving the University's Myer Morton Award (given by the M Club of Chicago for the football player who shows the greatest development and most promise as a result of spring practice), and being named a first-team All American by Walter Camp. He was named second-team All-American and All Big Ten by a numerous sports news organizations.[1] He is one of eleven centers to become an All-American for Michigan football.[2] The 1979 team played in the Gator Bowl, and the 1980 Big Ten Conference Champions played in the 1981 Rose Bowl.[3] The 1981 Rose Bowl marked the first bowl game victory for Bo Schembechler.[4]

Lilja wore #59 for the Wolverines while redshirting as a junior varsity player in 1976 and for four years as a varsity player from 1977-1980.[5] During the 1980 Purdue game, Lilja's jersey was ripped to the point where he could not go back out and play. When the equipment staff could not locate his backup jersey, they ripped the jersey of freshman center Doug James, put it on Lilja, and sent him back into the game wearing James' jersey. After the game, James got calls from friends expressing surprise that the freshman had gotten playing time in a big game.[6]

Lilja's last game for Michigan was the 1981 Rose Bowl, which the Wolverines won 23-6, over Washington.[7] Teammate Brad Bates later recalled: "I was walking off the field with George Lilja, and he said, 'Let's turn around for a Kodak moment,' . . . 'You could see that big orange backdrop against the mountains. This was Bo's first bowl victory.".[8]

Professional careerEdit

Lilja was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the fourth round of the 1981 NFL Draft and played six seasons in the NFL with the Rams (1982), New York Jets (1983-1984), Cleveland Browns (1984-1986), and Dallas Cowboys (1987). Lilja suffered an injured ankle in 1981 and spent the entire year on injured reserve.[1] He appeared in 54 NFL games and started none.[9] He played on Marty Schottenheimer's 1986 Cleveland Browns who went 12-4 and advanced to the American Football Conference championship game against the Denver Broncos in the 1986 NFL Playoffs.[10] Their playoff run included back-to-back overtime (the first being double overtime) home playoff games decided by 23-20 scores.[11][12] The latter game is known for The Drive.[13]

George Lilja started at Left Guard for the Cleveland Browns offensive line in 1985, the year two Cleveland Browns running backs, Kevin Mack and Earnest Byner, both rushed for a thousand yards a piece.[14] They were the third of five running back tandems on the same team achieve that feat in one NFL season.[15]

Family and faithEdit

Lilja is married to his wife Meg, and they have four children, Danielle, David, Bethany, and George III.[16] Lilja is not related to Ryan Lilja.[17] Lilja's parents raised him in a Christian manner with his five brothers and two sisters.[16]

Lilja has long been part of Christian athlete groups and writes and speaks about his Christian faith.[16][18] He espouses the biblical quote:

Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well - Matthew 6:33


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "George Lilja - #61 - T - Michigan - Profile". New York Jets. Archived from the original on 2007-11-30. Retrieved 2007-11-26.
  2. "University of Michigan Football All-American, 1980, Team Co-Captain, 1980: George Lilja". The Regents of the University of Michigan. 2007-02-10. Retrieved 2007-11-26.
  3. "Michigan's Bowl History". University of Michigan & Host Interactive. Retrieved 2007-12-31.
  4. "Woolfolk totes Wolverines: Butch: Biggest game? You bet". Pacific Stars and Stripes. 1981-01-04.
  5. "Bentley Historical Library -- -- U of M Football Rosters: Lilja". The Regents of the University of Michigan. 2003-08-25. Retrieved 2007-11-26.
  6. Brandstatter, Jim (2002). Tales from Michigan Stadium. Sports Publishing. pp. 73. ISBN 1-59670-015-7.
  7. "Pasadena Tournament of Roses: Past Game Scores". Tournament of Roses. 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-26.
  8. Cnockaert, Jim (2004). Michigan: Where Have You Gone?. Sports Publishing. pp. 8–9. ISBN 1-58261-771-6.
  9. "George Lilja". NFL Enterprises LLC. Retrieved 2007-11-26.
  10. "1986 Cleveland Browns". Retrieved 2007-11-26.
  11. "AFC Divisional Playoff (box score)". Retrieved 2007-11-26.
  12. "AFC Championship (box score)". Retrieved 2007-11-26.
  13. "The Drive". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2007-11-26.
  14. "1985 Cleveland Browns". Retrieved 2010-03-19.
  15. "Browns' 1,000-yard backs: Mack and Byner". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2010-03-19.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Stefanovsky, Londa. "George Lilja: Where is the Former Browns Offensive Lineman today?". Retrieved 2007-11-26.
  17. Tony (2007-06-03). "The Plain Dealer: Everything Cleveland". The Plain Dealer. Retrieved 2007-11-26.
  18. "George Lilja: "Is there anything more important in life than playing football?"". Retrieved 2007-11-26.

External linksEdit

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