He started for the Cleveland Browns in the 1957 NFL Championship Game while coming off a severely sprained ankle and a hairline fracture of the fibula. He retired from football after the 1957 season to go into coaching, but was lured back to the playing field when the American Football League started play in 1960. He is the father of former professional ice hockey player and general manager Mike O'Connell. He died March 20, 2014, aged 83.
Tommy O’Connell emerged as the Browns quarterback in 1956 following the retirement of Hall of Fame QB Otto Graham. In 1957, he was selected to the Pro Bowl and won seven of the eight games he started, leading the Browns to the Eastern Conference title. His performance that year was stellar. When compared to all other passers that have attempted 100 passes in a single season, O'Connell has the highest Passing Yards per Attempt average ever, a staggering 11.17. This is a great achievement when considering that in the 90+ years of NFL football, only four other quarterbacks have managed to attain a Passing Yards per Attempt average of over 10.0 for a season. His passer rating that year was 93.3, the fourth best in the decade of the 1950s.