This Ohio State Player Had A Difficult Path To The Hall Of Fame


An Ohio State player who would not be denied, and became one of the all-time greats.

Do you think this great former Ohio State player had a hard path to make the Pro Football Hall of fame as a wide receiver? First, he began his Buckeye career playing running back for Woody Hayes before splitting time at halfback and wideout. Everyone knows the coach hated the forward pass so he certainly wasn’t targeted often.

Then he played for two NFL teams that had storied rushing attacks. But even those things couldn’t hold Paul Warfield back from displaying his great pass catching ability, and becoming a Hall of Famer.

His 22 catch season in 1963 for Ohio State was enough for the Cleveland Browns to choose Warfield in the first round of the NFL draft. However, Jim Brown was still running the ball at the tail end of his historic streak of 1,000 yard rushing seasons. It wasn’t likely Warfield was going to have many balls thrown his way.

However, in his rookie season Warfield caught 52 passes for 920 yards and 9 touchdowns. Warfield made the Pro Bowl in 1964 and the Browns won their last NFL championship.

Then Warfield hit a dry spell with 3, 26 and 32 receptions the next 3 seasons. Jim Brown was still running over and around defenders in 1965 and then future Hall of Fame running back Leroy Kelly took over from there.

Then in 1968, veteran Bill Nelson took over the reigns at quarterback after the Browns got off to a poor start. He and Warfield became a dynamic duo and the Browns went on a winning streak, won their division, and  made it to the NFL title game.

Warfield had the most receiving yards of his career, 1,067 yards on 50 catches. He was named to the Pro Bowl for the second time.

Warfield was selected to the Pro Bowl again in 1969 and the Browns made it to the NFL Championship game again losing to the Minnesota Vikings. And then it happened.

Prior to the 1970 season the Browns traded Paul Warfield to the Miami Dolphins for the rights to draft the star quarterback coming out of college, Mike Phipps. For Browns fans it was devastating news. I know because I was one.

On the surface it seemed like the trade made sense. Aging quarterback Bill Nelsen only had so much left in his injury riddled knees, and young Miami head coach needed a big play receiver to go along with quarterback Bob Griese.

Griese, who was Phipps’ predecessor at Purdue, was lighting up the AFL with his passing and he was just entering his prime. Adding Warfield would allow him to become one of the top passing quarterbacks in the league, and the former Ohio State star would really put up big numbers. Also, Phipps may become a star quarterback like Griese. Neither of those two things happened.

Phipps went on to have a decent career but not great by any stretch of the imagination. And coach Shula was building a running attack for the ages that didn’t emphasize the passing game. Paul Warfield just couldn’t get a break.

Coach Shula had fullback Larry Csonka and all-purpose running back Jim Kiick and the two formed a terrific one-two punch in the backfield. When he added speedster Mercury Morris to the mix he had the greatest backfield the game had ever seen. Where would Paul Warfield fit in here?

Shula knew Warfield would be a great asset to the Dolphins running game. If an opposing defense loaded up the box to stop it, Griese could hit the Warfield deep and it could be for a quick touchdown. The defenses had to play honest most of the time and that made it nearly impossible to stop Csonka and company

Warfield didn’t see a ton of balls thrown his way in Shula’s offense, Only one season did he catch over 30 passes for the Dolphins, in 1971 when he had 43 receptions. But boy did Warfield make the most of his opportunities. In his 5 seasons with Miami he averaged 21.5 yards a reception and scored 33 touchdowns and made the Pro Bowl every year..

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After 3 straight Super Bowl  appearances and back to back championships, Warfield signed to play in the short lived World Football League for the 1975 season. He returned to the Browns for his last two seasons.

Paul Warfield’s career statistics may not blow anybody away who has only been watching the NFL for the last 20 or 30 years, but those stats only tell part of the story. But some of them are impressive anyway.

Warfield caught 427 passes for 8,565 yards and 86 touchdowns during his career. That’s 20.1 yards a catch and a touchdown every 5 times he caught a pass. Do you think Warfield was a game breaker?

The former Ohio State running back was quite possibly the most exciting wide receiver of his era and one of the greatest ever to play the game. In 1983 he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and in 1999 was named #60 on the top 100 players in NFL history.

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What a hard path for a wide receiver to make the Hall of Fame playing on running teams your entire career. But anyone who watched this great Buckeye play knew he couldn’t be denied. Paul Warfield was just that great.