If you considered what you would want from an NFL player on the playing field, you would likely look for two qualities.
First, you would want someone who excelled at his position on the field.
Second, you would want someone who helped your team make the playoffs and win championships.
Bob Gain’s 12 seasons with the Cleveland Browns were characterized by excellence on the field and team success.
A defensive lineman, Gain won multiple Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors and was on three NFL championship teams in 1954, 1955, and 1964 for the Browns.
We are saddened by the passing of Browns Legend Bob Gain.
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) November 15, 2016
We take a look at the life of Bob Gain – before, during, and after his NFL playing career.
The Early Years Through High School
Robert Gain was born on June 21, 1929 in Akron, Ohio.
Gain’s father (Zeman) died when Gain was in the 6th grade, and Gain moved with his mother (Mary), his aunt, and his grandmother to Weirton, West Virginia.
Weirton is located in the northern panhandle of West Virginia, between Ohio and Pennsylvania.
In Weirton, Gain attended Weir High School.
At Weir High School, Gain was a four-year starter on the football team. He played tackle on both offense and defense and was a kicker and a punter.
Gain twice earned first-team All-Ohio Valley Athletic Conference honors as a lineman.
He was also selected on the 1946 All-West Virginia team in 1946.
At a height of six feet and two inches and a weight of 210 pounds, Gain was the largest member of the All-West Virginia team.
In his senior year, Gain helped Weir High School finish second in the state rankings with an 8-2 record.
Gain was highly recruited by colleges.
He received 42 scholarship offers, including from many major football programs.
It came down to a choice between Notre Dame and the University of Kentucky for Gain.
A key factor in Gain’s decision was that Kentucky head coach Bear Bryant told Gain that he could play as a starter from his first year, while Notre Dame told Gain that he probably would be playing by his junior or senior year.
“Kentucky was closer to home and I really wanted to play right off, so for me there was no question, I went to the University of Kentucky in 1947.”
Gain left Weirton and headed to Lexington, Kentucky to attend the University of Kentucky and play football in the Southeastern Conference (SEC).
As Gain enrolled in summer school, he was eligible to play his first year at Kentucky.
Gain started at both offensive left tackle and defensive left tackle in each of his four years at Kentucky.
He also handled various kicking duties for the Wildcats.
It has been estimated that Gain was on the field for an average of 58-1/2 minutes per game while he played at Kentucky.
Kentucky had an 8-3 record in 1947, including a 24-14 Kentucky win over Villanova in the Great Lakes Bowl on December 6, 1947.
Gain’s play helped Kentucky outscore its opponents by a margin of 175 to 73 in 1947.
In 1948, Gain was named second-team All-SEC at tackle by the Associated Press.
Kentucky posted a 5-3-2 record in 1948.
With Gain at tackle, the Wildcats outscored their opponents by a margin of 199 to 128 in 1948.
Gain was selected in 1949 first-team All-American by the New York Sun and the Newspaper Editors Association and second-team All-American by the Associated Press and Look magazine (selected by Grantland Rice and the Football Writers Association of America).
In addition, he was named to the All-Players All-America Team (selected by the Chicago Tribune based on the votes of over 2,000 college football players).
He was also named first-team All-SEC at tackle by the Associated Press and United Press International in 1949.
In 1949, Kentucky finished the season with a 9-3 record (and was ranked 11th in the final Associated Press poll), including a 21-13 Wildcats loss to Santa Clara in the Orange Bowl on January 2, 1950.
Kentucky, helped by Gain’s All-American play, outscored its opponents by a margin of 317 to 74 in 1949.
Gain is remembered at Kentucky for his off-the-field behavior as well as his football play.
Former Kentucky basketball coach Joe B. Hall (who was a student at Kentucky while Gain was there) recalled Gain doing belly flops off the highest diving platform:
“He would go off the tower and land directly on his stomach as a means of toughening himself up. He was 6-foot-3, about 250 pounds, and back then that was a big man. We thought he was a giant, but he could move. He loved to leave his feet, dive all out, and tackle you. Bob Gain on the football field was intimidating.”
Another story about Gain concerns how he responded to Kentucky head coach Bear Bryant’s curfews.
Humsey Yessin, a Kentucky basketball manager when Gain was at the school, remembered:
“Bob was a bit of a bounder when he first came to UK. What Bob would do, he would put on his clothes, then get in bed and pull the covers all the way up. So he’d be there for the bed check, then, once it was over, he would sneak out. . . . They had one assistant coach whose job was to stay after practice and run the guys Coach Bryant wanted run, the guys in trouble. They were really running Bob hard [as Bryant became aware of Gain going out after curfew] – and he hated that. So it got to the point, he almost became like another coach. He became the guy helping Coach Bryant keep everybody else in line because he hated that running so much.”
Gain was co-captain of the Kentucky football team in 1950.
In 1950, Gain received numerous honors for his play.
He won the Outland Trophy given to the best college football interior lineman.
He was selected as a consensus All-American at tackle by the All-America Board, the Associated Press, the Football Writers Association of America, the International News Service, the Newspaper Enterprise Association, the Sporting News, the United Press, the Central Press Association, and the Walter Camp Football Foundation.
In addition, Gain was again named first-team All-SEC at tackle by the Associated Press and United Press International.
Helped by Gain’s Outland Trophy-winning performance, Kentucky was SEC champion in 1950, finishing the regular season with a 10-1 record (outscoring its opponents 380 to 62).
This is cool. The All-Opponent Team picked by the Dayton football squad in 1950.
Shula is Don.
Marchibroda is Ted, who Don played & coached vs. in the #NFL.
LeBaron is Eddie, who Don played with (#Redskins) & vs. in the #NFL.
Gain is Bob, Don's future #Browns teammate. #Dolphins pic.twitter.com/P3DL3hb2Zt
— Dan Daly (@dandalyonsports) May 5, 2020
The Wildcats advanced to the Sugar Bowl on January 1, 1951 against Oklahoma, winner of 31 straight games.
In what is considered one of the greatest victories in Kentucky football history, the Wildcats upset Oklahoma 13-7.
Wildcat and Cleveland Browns great Bob Gain, RIP. Nat. Champ. 3XNFL Champ. Outland Award. 5x Pro Bowl. College Football HOF. pic.twitter.com/SuuFBzLeHz
— LL Cool Jon (@sensiblejon) November 15, 2016
Gain kicked an extra point in the game and contributed to the victory with his play at tackle.
Kentucky was ranked seventh in the nation in the final Associated Press poll in 1950.
Gain ultimately went back to school while playing professional football and earned a degree in education from Kentucky in 1952.
Best to wear #70. Bob Gain OT, Kentucky. All American in 1950. Led the Wildcats to a 11-1 record and a SEC championship that year. UK was 33-10-2 in his 4 years. Was also their kicker. Honorable Mention: Wade Walker OT, Oklahoma pic.twitter.com/LSkhkunMZn
— Justin (@CFBEncyclopedia) October 24, 2020
After playing in the Senior Bowl and the College All-Star Game (against the Cleveland Browns), Gain headed to the NFL.
The Pro Football Years
Gain was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the first round of the 1951 NFL draft (with the 5th overall pick).
However, Gain never played for the Packers.
“I wanted to go there, but they only wanted to give me $7,000 and I thought I should get 8.”
Instead, in 1951, Gain played in the Canadian Football League (CFL) for the Ottawa Rough Riders.
Gain’s play helped Ottawa win the Grey Cup as CFL champion in 1951.
He was selected to an All-Canada all-star team.
The Packers traded Gain’s draft rights to the Cleveland Browns on September 20, 1951.
After one season in the CFL, on April 7, 1952, Gain signed with the Browns.
As an NFL rookie in 1952, Gain played in and started six regular-season games at left defensive tackle.
He missed half the season because of a broken jaw.
In a 37-34 Browns loss to the New York Giants on December 14, 1952, Gain kicked three extra points in three attempts – the only kicking points scored by Gain in his NFL career.
The Browns won the American Division title in 1952 with an 8-4 record.
Gain contributed to the Browns defense leading the NFL in fewest regular-season total passing and rushing yards allowed (3,075) and ranking second in the NFL in fewest regular-season points allowed (213).
Cleveland advanced to the NFL championship game for the third consecutive year (the Browns had won in 1950 and lost in 1951).
However, on December 28, 1952, with Gain starting the game at left defensive tackle, Cleveland lost to the Detroit Lions 17-7.
Gain did not play another game for the Browns for nearly two years.
He left professional football in 1953 to serve in the Korean War for the United States Air Force as a commissioned Lieutenant.
How Gain handled his military service says much about his character.
While Browns head coach Paul Brown had the Air Force agree that Gain could perform his military service in the United States and fly on Sunday to Browns games, Gain disagreed, stating:
“I figured that wasn’t such a good idea. . . . I didn’t want any special treatment and I would deck anyone who said I got special treatment. . . . I feel good about it. I feel good when a veteran kisses my cheek or shakes my hand. If I had played football I couldn’t have looked them in the eye. I lost friends in the war and I had to fulfill my obligation.”
Gain was in Korea and Japan during the Korean War.
While Gain was overseas, Paul Brown called Gain’s wife, Kitty, at least once a week.
It proved to be an important gesture, as Gain had considered returning to the CFL when he returned from his military service because he would have made more money in Canada.
However, when Gain heard about Brown’s phone calls, he decided to stay with Cleveland.
“I thought that was really something and I wanted to repay that kind of loyalty and friendship. I always respected Paul.”
After missing the entire 1953 season (when the Browns advanced to the NFL championship game, but lost again to the Detroit Lions) and most of the 1954 regular season, Gain returned to the Browns and played in (but did not start) the last two regular-season games in 1954.
The Browns won the East Division title with a 9-3 record in 1954 and again advanced to the NFL championship game against the Detroit Lions on December 26, 1954.
Gain contributed to Cleveland’s defense leading the NFL in both fewest regular-season points allowed (162) and fewest regular-season total passing and rushing yards allowed (2,658).
This time, Cleveland was victorious, routing the Lions 56-10, to win the second NFL championship for the Browns.
Gain played in (but did not start) the game, in which Cleveland’s defense forced nine Lions turnovers.
In 1955, Gain for the first time started all 12 regular-season games.
Gain played at middle guard in the middle of Cleveland’s defensive line.
He recovered two fumbles in 1955, which he returned for two yards.
Gain received his first NFL honors in 1955.
He was named second-team All-Pro by United Press International.
“Bob Gain became an excellent defensive tackle for us. He had such tremendous strength and big hands, he simply tossed aside an opposing lineman. Added to that strength was great quickness and mobility.”
The Browns had a 9-2-1 record in 1955 and again won the East Division title.
Gain helped the Browns defense lead the NFL in both fewest regular-season points allowed (218) and fewest regular-season total passing and rushing yards allowed (2,841).
The Browns advanced to their sixth consecutive NFL championship game on December 26, 1955 against the Los Angeles Rams.
Gain started the 1955 NFL championship game at middle guard, surrounded on the defensive line by Carlton Massey at left defensive end, John Kissell at left defensive tackle, Don Colo at right defensive tackle, and Len Ford at right defensive end.
Cleveland successfully defended its NFL championship in 1955, with a 38-14 victory over the Rams.
Gain helped the Browns defense, which forced seven Rams turnovers in the game.
Gain played in 12, and started six, regular-season games in 1956 at right defensive tackle.
He was again named second-team All-Pro by United Press International in 1956.
The Browns fell to a 5-7 record in 1956.
However, the Browns defense continued to play well, as Gain’s play contributed to Cleveland leading the NFL in fewest regular-season points allowed (177) and ranking second in the NFL in fewest regular-season total passing and rushing yards allowed (3,135).
In 1957, Gain started all 12 regular-season games at left defensive tackle.
He recovered four fumbles (his best year in recovering fumbles).
Gain received his first Pro Bowl invitation in 1957.
He was also named first-team All-Pro by the New York Daily News, first-team All-Conference by the Sporting News, and second-team All-Pro by United Press International.
Future Pro Football Hall of Famer Dick Stanfel, a guard who played against Gain with the Detroit Lions and the Washington Redskins, said:
“[Gain] was right in front of me, and we went at it pretty good. Good player. Strong, tough guy. I wished it was somebody else playing in front of me at that time. He was an aggressive, hard-nosed player.”
The Browns rebounded in 1957, winning the East Division title with a 9-2-1 record.
Helped by Gain’s play, Cleveland’s defense again led the NFL in fewest regular-season points allowed (172) and ranked second in the NFL in fewest regular reason total passing and rushing yards allowed (2,802).
Cleveland advanced to the 1957 championship game against the Detroit Lions on December 29, 1957.
Gain started the game at left defensive tackle, but the Browns lost to the Lions 59-14.
Gain again started all 12 regular-season games in 1958 at left defensive tackle.
He received his second consecutive Pro Bowl invitation in 1958.
He was also named first-team All-Pro by the Newspaper Enterprise Association, first-team All-Conference by the Sporting News, and second-team All-Pro by United Press International.
Cleveland had a 9-3 record and finished in a tie with the New York Giants for first place in the East Division in 1958.
Gain helped the Browns defense rank third in the NFL in fewest regular-season points allowed (217).
The Browns played a special playoff game on December 21, 1958 to break the tie with the Giants for the right to advance to the NFL championship game.
With Gain starting the playoff game at left defensive tackle, the Browns forced four Giants turnovers.
However, New York shut out Cleveland 10-0.
In 1959, Gain again started all 12 regular-season games, principally playing at left defensive end.
Gain received his third consecutive Pro Bowl invitation in 1959.
He was also named first-team All-Conference by the Sporting News in 1959.
Browns teammate Chuck Noll believed that Gain was successful because of his ability to “parallel and read” (to diagnose a play while fighting off blocks and moving laterally along the line of scrimmage).
Cleveland had a 7-5 record in 1959, but missed the playoffs.
The Browns defense, helped by Gain, ranked third in the NFL in fewest regular-season points allowed (214) and second in the NFL in fewest rushing yards allowed (1,422).
For the fourth straight season, Gain started all 12 regular-season games in 1960 (returning to left defensive tackle).
On December 18, 1960, Gain scored his only NFL regular-season touchdown, on a 22-yard interception return, as the Browns defeated the New York Giants 48-34.
In 1960, Gain was named first-team All-Conference by the Sporting News and second-team All-Pro by United Press International.
The Browns had an 8-3-1 record in 1960, but missed the playoffs.
Gain helped the Browns defense lead the NFL in intercepting passes (31) and tie for the NFL lead in forcing turnovers (45).
In 1961, Gain started all 14 regular-season games at left defensive tackle and recovered one fumble.
Gain was invited to the Pro Bowl in 1961.
He was also named second-team All-Pro by United Press International.
With an 8-5-1 record in 1961, the Browns failed to make the playoffs.
Gain again started all 14 regular-season games at left defensive tackle and recovered one fumble in 1962.
Gain received his fifth Pro Bowl invitation in six seasons in 1962.
He was also named second-team All-Pro by the Associated Press.
Cleveland had a 7-6-1 record in 1962 and missed the playoffs.
For the seventh consecutive year, Gain started every regular-season game (all 14) in 1963.
He played left defensive tackle.
In 1963, Gain was named first-team All-Conference by the Sporting News and second-team All-Pro by the Associated Press and United Press International.
The Browns had a 10-4 record in 1963, but missed the playoffs.
Gain helped the Browns defense rank third in the NFL in fewest regular-season points allowed (262) and tied for third in the NFL in lowest regular-season average rushing yards per rushing attempt allowed (3.9).
Gain suffered a broken leg in 1964 in the fourth regular-season game (a 27-6 Browns win over the Dallas Cowboys on October 4, 1964).
As a result, he played in only four, and started only three, regular-season games in 1964.
The Browns won the NFL championship in 1964, winning the East Division title with a 10-3-1 record and then shutting out the Baltimore Colts 27-0 in the NFL championship game on December 27, 1964.
Gain retired from playing in the NFL before the 1965 season on July 10, 1965.
The Years After the NFL
Gain married his wife, Kitty, in 1952.
He recalled how he met his wife:
“We met at the race track. The Chief of Police from Paris, Kentucky introduced us. It cost me a big bet because I was talking to her and didn’t get my bet off in time. We went to the Kentucky Derby together. We won a lot of money and had a great time, and we’ve been together ever since.”
They were married for 64 years until Gain’s death.
— The Bone Lady🧢☮️🧡 (@TheBoneLady1999) November 15, 2016
Gain had three daughters, Jerry Lynn, Janis, and Judy Ann.
After his retirement from the NFL, Gain worked for the companies, Cleveland Frog and Crossing and Pettibone.
He was involved in sales with steel mills as customers.
While playing for the Browns, Gain moved his family from Kentucky and settled in Timberlake, Ohio, a village east of Cleveland.
He lived in Timberlake for the rest of his life.
Gain is a member of the Weir High School Wall of Fame and the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Hall of Fame.
He is also a member of the University of Kentucky Ring of Honor, the UK Athletics Hall of Fame, and the State of Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame.
Gain was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1980.
In 2003, Gain was honored in the Cleveland Browns Legends Program.
Gain died on November 14, 2016 at the age of 87.
Gain’s NFL career is defined by consistency, both individually and as part of the Cleveland Browns team.
Individually, Gain displayed consistency by starting all of Cleveland’s regular season and playoff games in eight out of nine years (1955-1963), receiving Pro Bowl invitations in five out of six years (1957-1962), earning All-Pro or All-Conference honors in nine straight years (1955-1963), and recovering at least one fumble in nine out of 10 years (1955-1964).
As part of the Browns defense, Gain helped Cleveland display consistency by advancing to the NFL championship game in four of his first five seasons (1952 and 1954-1957), having winning records in eleven of his twelve seasons (1952 and 1954-1964), and ranking either first or second in the NFL in fewest regular-season points allowed and fewest regular-season total passing and rushing yards allowed in each of his first five seasons (1952 and 1954-1957).
In addition, in 1954, 1955, and 1964, Gain played on three of the four Browns teams that have won NFL championships.
Based on his consistent individual excellence and contribution to team success, Bob Gain deserves to join them in Canton.