Successful NFL teams consist of both star players and other players who build the foundation of the team.
These “foundation” players are often offensive linemen who do not have the name recognition of other offensive players, but they are critical to team success.
One such “foundation” player for the Cleveland Browns was offensive lineman Dan Fike.
When the Browns made the playoffs in five consecutive seasons from 1985 through 1989, while the team had such star players as Bernie Kosar.
— Downtown Browns (@DowntownBrowns_) July 3, 2020
We take a look at the life of Dan Fike – before, during, and after his NFL playing career.
The Early Years Before College
Dan Clement Fike, Jr. was born in Mobile, Alabama on June 16, 1961.
Fike attended Pine Forest High School in Pensacola, Florida.
Pensacola is about 60 miles southeast of Mobile.
At Pine Forest High School, Fike played on the defensive line.
After graduating from Pine Forest High School in 1979, Fike received a football scholarship from the University of Florida (“Florida”) and headed to Gainesville, Florida to attend college at Florida.
Fike played football for Florida from 1979 to 1982.
In 1979, Fike started four games as a freshman defensive tackle for the Gators.
Florida had an 0-10-1 record in 1979.
In 1980, Fike was moved from defense to offense during spring drills.
He became a full-time starter for three years at left tackle for the Gators.
The move from defense to offense for Fike helped Florida improve from its winless season in 1979.
The Gators, in 1980, posted an 8-4 record, including a 35-20 victory over Maryland in the Tangerine Bowl on December 20, 1980.
Practicing against future College Football Hall of Fame and multiple NFL All-Pro and Pro Bowl Florida linebacker Wilber Marshall helped Fike’s play.
In 1981, Florida had a 7-5 record.
Fike received second team All-SEC honors in 1982.
The Gators compiled an 8-4 record in 1982, including a 17-14 defeat of Miami (Florida) (then ranked 15th in the nation by the Associated Press) on September 4, 1982, a 17-9 win over USC (then ranked 10th in the nation by the Associated Press) on September 11, 1982, a 19-17 triumph over Auburn (then ranked 19th in the nation by the Associated Press) on October 30, 1982, and a 13-10 victory over Florida State (then ranked 15th in the nation by the Associated Press) on December 4, 1982.
The Pro Football Years
Fike, in the 1983 NFL draft, was selected by the New York Jets in the 10th round.
He was the 274th overall pick.
He was not pleased to be drafted by New York.
The Jets waived Fike before the 1983 NFL regular season on August 29, 1983.
Fike then signed with the Tampa Bay Bandits in the United States Football League (“USFL”) on November 13, 1983.
Tampa Bay had drafted Fike in the 1983 USFL Territorial Draft.
With Tampa Bay, Fike became the team’s starting left tackle in 1984 and 1985.
In 1984, Tampa Bay made the USFL playoffs with a 14-4 record.
Fike helped the Bandits rank fourth in the USFL in 1984 in points scored (498).
Tampa Bay, with a 10-8 record, also made the USFL playoffs in 1985.
After Tampa Bay’s 1985 season ended in June, Fike left the USFL and joined the Cleveland Browns in the NFL.
Fike had signed a future contract with the Browns on January 20, 1985.
With Cleveland in 1985, Fike (at a height of six feet and seven inches and at a weight of 280 pounds) played in and started 12 regular season games at right guard and one regular season game at right tackle (first evidencing his versatility to play multiple offensive line positions).
He replaced future Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe DeLamielleure, who had started all 16 regular season games for Cleveland in 1984 at right guard.
Training camp with the Browns under head coach Marty Schottenheimer was much different for Fike than training camp with Tampa Bay.
In Fike’s first regular season game for the Browns, a 27-24 Cleveland loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in overtime on September 8, 1985, Fike contributed to the Browns gaining 357 total yards.
On September 29, 1985, Fike helped Cleveland gain 440 total yards, including 130 rushing yards by running back Kevin Mack, in a 21-7 Browns win over the San Diego Chargers.
The following week, on October 6, 1985, with Fike at right guard, Cleveland gained 447 total yards, including 115 rushing yards by Kevin Mack and 104 receiving yards by wide receiver Brian Brennan, and did not allow a sack.
The Browns defeated the New England Patriots 24-20.
In the next game, on October 13, 1985, Fike’s play helped Cleveland gain 360 total yards, including 146 receiving yards by wide receiver Clarence Weathers, and not allow a sack, in a 21-6 Cleveland victory over the Houston Oilers.
Fike contributed to Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar throwing three touchdown passes, in a 28-21 Cleveland win over the Houston Oilers on December 15, 1985.
With an 8-8 record, Cleveland won the AFC Central Division title in 1985.
It was the first division championship for the Browns since 1980.
Fike helped Cleveland rank in the 1985 NFL regular season fourth in fewest sacks allowed (36).
In the 1985 playoffs, Cleveland met the Miami Dolphins on January 4, 1986.
With Fike starting at right guard, running back Earnest Byner rushed for 161 yards, but the Browns lost to Miami 24-21.
Between the Bandits and the Browns, Fike played in a total of 33 regular season and playoff games in the USFL and the NFL in 1985.
In 1986, Fike started all 16 regular season games at right guard.
Fike’s play helped Cleveland gain 356 total yards, in a 20-7 Browns defeat of the Kansas City Chiefs on October 12, 1986.
On November 10, 1986, Fike contributed to Cleveland gaining 558 total yards, including 401 passing yards by Bernie Kosar, in a 26-16 Browns triumph over the Miami Dolphins.
In a 37-31 Cleveland victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime on November 23, 1986, Fike helped the Browns gain 536 total yards and not allow a sack.
Bernie Kosar passed for 414 yards, Kevin Mack rushed for 106 yards, and wide receiver Webster Slaughter had 134 receiving yards.
The following week, on November 30, 1986, with Fike at right guard, Kevin Mack rushed for 121 yards, in a 13-10 Cleveland win over the Houston Oilers in overtime.
In the next game, on December 7, 1986, Fike’s play helped Cleveland gain 371 total yards, as the Browns defeated the Buffalo Bills 21-17.
The following week, on December 14, 1986, Fike contributed to Cleveland gaining 372 total yards and not allowing a sack, in a 34-3 Browns triumph over the Cincinnati Bengals.
In the next game, on December 21, 1986, Fike helped Cleveland gain 462 total yards, including 176 receiving yards by Brian Brennan, in a 47-17 Browns victory over the San Diego Chargers.
Fike was named second team All-Pro by the Newspaper Enterprise Association for his play in 1986.
Cleveland, with a 12-4 record, again won the AFC Central Division title in 1986.
With Fike at right guard, the Browns ranked in the 1986 NFL regular season fifth in points scored (391).
In the 1986 playoffs, Cleveland first played the New York Jets on January 3, 1987.
Fike started at right guard, and his play helped the Browns gain 558 total yards.
Bernie Kosar passed for 489 passing yards and future Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end Ozzie Newsome had 114 receiving yards, as Cleveland defeated the Jets 23-20 in double overtime.
The Browns next met the Denver Broncos in the 1986 AFC championship game on January 11, 1987.
Fike again started at right guard, and he contributed to Cleveland gaining 356 total yards.
However, the Browns lost to Denver 23-20 in overtime.
In 1987, Fike played in and started 12 regular season games at right guard.
He missed three games in which Cleveland generally used “replacement players” because of the 1987 NFL players’ strike (the 1987 NFL regular season consisted of only 15 games).
Fike helped Cleveland gain 387 total yards, in a 28-21 Browns loss to the New Orleans Saints on September 13, 1987.
On November 8, 1987, with Fike at right guard, Cleveland gained 365 total yards and did not allow a sack, in a 38-3 Browns win over the Atlanta Falcons.
The following week, on November 15, 1987, Fike’s play helped Cleveland gain 421 total yards, in a 27-21 Browns triumph over the Buffalo Bills.
In the next game, on November 22, 1987, Fike contributed to Cleveland gaining 457 total yards, including 114 rushing yards by Kevin Mack, and not allowing a sack, as the Browns defeated the Houston Oilers 40-7.
The following week, on November 29, 1987, Fike helped Cleveland gain 360 total yards, in a 38-24 Browns loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
On December 13, 1987, with Fike at right guard, Cleveland gained 390 total yards, in a 38-24 Browns victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
Bernie Kosar threw four touchdown passes, Kevin Mack rushed for 133 yards, and Webster Slaughter had 119 receiving yards.
The following week, on December 20, 1987, Fike’s play helped Cleveland gain 421 yards, including 115 receiving yards by Webster Slaughter, and not allow a sack, in a 24-17 Browns win over the Los Angeles Raiders.
For his play in 1987, Fike was named second team All-Conference by United Press International.
Cleveland, with a 10-5 record in 1987, won the AFC Central Division title for a third consecutive year.
Fike contributed to the Browns ranking in the 1987 NFL regular season third in points scored (390) and fifth in passing yards (3,455).
In the 1987 playoffs, the Browns first met the Indianapolis Colts on January 9, 1988.
Fike started the game at right guard, and he helped Cleveland gain 404 total yards and not allow a sack.
Bernie Kosar threw three touchdown passes and Earnest Byner rushed for 122 yards, as the Browns defeated the Colts 38-21.
1/9/88 AFC Playoff – Ind@Cle
3rd qtr. Tied 14-14@EByner
Earnest Byner refuses to be denied. He follows Dan Fike into the end zone and uses the momentum of linebacker Cliff Odom’s hit to burst him further forward for a 2yd TD. Cle lead 21-14. It’s Byner’s 2nd TD of the game. pic.twitter.com/BuQvE6gXh2
— Steel City Star (@steelcitystar) September 2, 2018
With the win, Cleveland next played the Denver Broncos in the 1987 AFC championship game on January 17, 1988.
Again with Fike starting at right guard, the Browns gained 464 total yards, including 120 receiving yards by Earnest Byner.
Bernie Kosar threw three touchdown passes, but Cleveland lost to Denver 38-33.
Fike started all 16 regular season games in 1988 at right guard.
On September 19, 1988, Fike’s play helped the Browns gain 356 total yards and not allow a sack, in a 23-17 Cleveland win over the Indianapolis Colts.
Fike contributed to the Browns not allowing a sack, in a 23-9 Cleveland victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on October 2, 1988.
On October 16, 1988, Fike helped the Browns gain 361 total yards, including 100 rushing yards by Kevin Mack, in a 19-3 Cleveland triumph over the Philadelphia Eagles on October 16, 1988.
The following week, on October 23, 1988, with Fike at right guard, the Browns gained 369 total yards.
Bernie Kosar threw three touchdown passes, as Cleveland defeated the Phoenix Cardinals 29-21.
Fike’s play helped the Browns gain 388 total yards, including 136 receiving yards by Webster Slaughter, in a 28-23 Cleveland win over the Houston Oilers on December 18, 1988.
The Browns posted a 10-6 record in 1988 and made the NFL playoffs as a “wild card” team.
In the 1988 playoffs, the Browns played the Houston Oilers on December 24, 1988.
Fike started at right guard and contributed to Cleveland not allowing a sack.
However, the Browns lost to the Oilers 24-23.
In 1989, Fike played in and started 13 regular season games at right guard.
Dan Fike autograph circa 1989. Good dude. pic.twitter.com/de8fwx0app
— Gary Barker (@BarkerAppraiser) November 8, 2018
Fike helped Cleveland gain 357 total yards, in a 51-0 Browns shutout of the Pittsburgh Steelers on September 10, 1989.
The following week, on September 17, 1989, with Fike at right guard, Bernie Kosar threw three touchdown passes, in a 38-24 Cleveland win over the New York Jets.
In a 17-7 Browns loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on October 15, 1989, Fike’s play helped Webster Slaughter have 106 receiving yards.
The following week, on October 23, 1989, Fike contributed to Webster Slaughter having 186 receiving yards, in a 27-7 Browns victory over the Chicago Bears.
In the next game, on October 29, 1989, Fike helped Cleveland gain 383 total yards, including 184 receiving yards by Webster Slaughter, in a 28-17 Browns triumph over the Houston Oilers.
On November 23, 1989, with Fike at right guard, Cleveland gained 359 total yards, in a 13-10 Browns loss to the Detroit Lions 13-10.
In the next game, on December 3, 1989, Fike’s play helped Cleveland not allow a sack, in a 21-0 Browns loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
The game was an unfortunate one for Fike not just for the loss.
Fike suffered a major knee injury in the game and missed the rest of the 1989 season.
Before the injury, Fike had been a durable player for Cleveland.
From the beginning of the 1985 regular season until he was injured in 1989, Fike had started 76 out of 82 regular season and playoff games (three of the games he missed were because of the 1987 NFL players’ strike).
Cleveland, with a 9-6-1 record in 1989, won the AFC Central Division title for the fourth time in five years.
Without Fike, in the 1989 playoffs, Cleveland first defeated the Buffalo Bills 34-30 on January 6, 1990, before losing to the Denver Broncos 37-21 on January 14, 1990 in the 1989 AFC championship game.
Fike’s knee injury from 1989 also affected him in 1990.
He missed the first six games of the 1990 season.
He did play in the final 10 games, but he did not start any of them.
The Browns had a 3-13 record in 1990.
Fike returned to the starting lineup for Cleveland in 1991, but at a new position.
He started all 16 regular season games at right tackle in 1991 (further demonstrating his versatility to play multiple offensive line positions).
On September 15, 1991, Fike contributed to Webster Slaughter having 107 receiving yards, in a 14-13 Browns victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
Fike helped Cleveland gain 364 total yards, in a 30-24 Browns win over the San Diego Chargers in overtime on October 20, 1991.
The following week, on October 27, 1991, with Fike at right tackle, Cleveland did not allow a sack, in a 17-14 Browns defeat of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Cleveland had a 6-10 record in 1991.
In 1992, Fike again started all 16 regular season games, but at three different positions (further displaying his versatility to play multiple offensive line positions).
He started one game at left guard, one game at right guard, and 14 games at right tackle.
In a 28-16 Browns victory over the Los Angeles Raiders on September 20, 1992, Fike’s play helped quarterback Todd Philcox throw three touchdown passes and running back Eric Metcalf have 177 receiving yards.
Fike contributed to Cleveland not allowing a sack, in a 17-6 Browns defeat of the Green Bay Packers on October 18, 1992.
On December 6, 1992, Fike helped Cleveland gain 381 total yards, in a 37-21 Browns win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
In 1992, Cleveland had a 7-9 record.
On August 5, 1993, Fike was traded by the Browns to the Green Bay Packers in exchange for a conditional draft pick.
“We decided to go with younger tackles and trading [Fike] now gives him a better opportunity to help Green Bay. Moving a player like Dan is difficult for all of us. In his eight seasons with the Browns, he has done everything he could to help the team. I have a tremendous respect and regard for his loyalty his work ethic and his dedication.”
However, the Packers released Fike on August 16, 1993.
He then signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers on September 30, 1993.
Fike played in three regular season games for Pittsburgh in 1993 before being released by the Steelers.
1993 was Fike’s final season in the NFL.
The Years After The NFL
Fike married Karen.
They have two children.
After the end of his NFL career, Fike had a party planning business, which he has now sold.
He now spends his time in the Cleveland area and in Hawaii (in Maui).
Fike’s eight-year NFL career with the Browns can be defined by three words – versatile, contributor, and winner.
First, Fike was a versatile player on the offensive line.
Earning All-Pro and All-Conference honors, Fike had his best seasons at right guard.
However, he displayed his versatility by starting almost two full seasons at a different offensive line position – right tackle – and one game on the opposite side of the offensive line – left guard.
Second, Fike’s play contributed to team and individual success.
With Fike on the offensive line, the Browns gained more total yards and allowed fewer sacks.
Dan Fike went from the TB Bandits to anchor the Browns OL during the Kosar era. pic.twitter.com/G1M2jhNJy3
— My name is Greg it rhymes with egg (@gdizzle_344) July 21, 2020
In addition, many Browns offensive players, including Bernie Kosar, Todd Philcox, Kevin Mack, Earnest Byner, Eric Metcalf, Brian Brennan, Clarence Weathers, Webster Slaughter, and Ozzie Newsome, had better games (with better statistics) because of the help provided by the blocking and overall play of Fike.
Third, and most importantly, Fike won games with Cleveland.
During Fike’s first five seasons with the Browns from 1985 to 1989, Cleveland compiled a record season record of 49-29-1.
In addition, during these five seasons, the Browns made the playoffs in each season, won four AFC Central Division titles, won three playoff games, and advanced to three AFC championship games.
The success of the Browns from 1985 to 1989 was only matched over a consecutive five-year period in team history by the great Cleveland teams of the 1940’s and 1950’s (1946 to 1950 and 1951 to 1955).
Fike (helped by his durability in starting 76 regular season and playoff games over these five seasons) was an important part of the foundation of this success by the Browns from 1985 to 1989.
Cleveland fans in turn should appreciate the play of Dan Fike – part of the foundation for the “awesome” play of the Cleveland Browns from 1985 to 1989.