There may be no more important games in Cleveland Browns history than the team’s victories in the 1950, 1954, 1955, and 1964 NFL championship games, giving Cleveland its four NFL championships.
One of the key players for the Browns in the 1954 and 1955 championship games was Ken Konz.
In these two games, Konz had four interceptions, a forced fumble, and a 24-yard punt return.
In addition to his outstanding play in these two championship games, Konz was an excellent and versatile player for Cleveland from 1953 to 1959, helping the team as a safety, returner, punter, and kicker.
Konz earned Pro Bowl, All-Pro, and All-Conference honors.
Happy Birthday to the late Ken Konz, out of Weimar, Texas and @LSUfootball ; 7 year @NFL career, 2X @NFL Champion, Pro Bowl 1955, 2X 1st Team All Pro, Member Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, Member Texas Sports Hall of Fame; 9-25-1928 to 2-5-2008… pic.twitter.com/Mjmigg1QJ5
— Larry in Missouri ( Leisure Suit Larry) (@LarryInMissouri) September 25, 2020
We take a look at the life of Ken Konz – before, during, and after his NFL playing career.
The Early Years Through High School
Kenneth Earl Konz was born on September 25, 1928 in Weimar, Texas.
Weimar is located in southeastern Texas.
It had a population of approximately 1,000 to 1,500 people when Konz grew up there.
Konz had a difficult childhood.
He was left fatherless at the age of four.
To help his mother, Wilma, support the family, Konz had to work at various jobs.
While in elementary school, Konz delivered newspapers in the morning before going to school and also swept out a bank after school was over.
Later, Konz worked, at age 14, as a ranch hand and, at age 16, in a cotton field.
Konz attended Weimar High School and starred on the football team.
Because the school was small, the Weimar High School football team competed in six-man football.
In fact, Konz never saw an 11-man football game until he attended college.
In 1943, as a freshman, Konz (playing with his brother, Max) helped Weimar High School have its first undefeated season (8-0) and first district championship.
After a 6-3 season in 1944, Weimar High School, with Konz’s play, posted records of 8-0-1 in 1945 and 9-0 in 1946.
Weimar High School won district championships in both 1945 and 1946.
Konz was a four-year starter, and team captain during the 1945 and 1946 seasons, at Weimar High School.
As a senior, in 1946, Konz scored 274 points and passed for 16 touchdowns.
In addition, he set state records for yards per punt (44.6) and points scored in a game (50).
In describing his recruitment for college, Konz said:
“I had offers from just about every school in Texas. Six-man football is not 11-man football, but it does require quickness and skill, and I was a good athlete. They could see that. But my brother attended Texas A&M, and he was home every weekend, fiddlin’ around, not doing his schoolwork. And all those schools were within easy driving distance. I wanted to go someplace where I was really away from home – but not so far that I couldn’t get back quickly if my family needed me. LSU fit the bill. . . . I had to hitchhike to Baton Rouge. But it was certainly worth it.”
Konz received a scholarship from LSU and headed there in 1947.
At LSU, Konz lettered in football in 1948, 1949, and 1950.
Konz was versatile for LSU, playing quarterback, fullback, and end on offense, cornerback and safety on defense, and kicker (on kickoffs and extra points), punter, and punt returner on special teams.
In 1948, LSU had a 3-7 record.
Konz helped LSU rebound with a much better season in 1949.
With wins over North Carolina (then ranked sixth in the nation by the Associated Press), 13-7 on October 22, 1949, and Tulane (then ranked 10th in the nation by the Associated Press), 21-0 on November 26, 1949, before a 35-0 loss to Oklahoma (then ranked second in the nation by the Associated Press) on January 2, 1950, LSU posted an 8-3 record and was ranked ninth in the nation in the final Associated Press poll in 1949.
The 21-0 win over Tulane may have been Konz’s best game at LSU.
He returned a punt for 92 yards for LSU’s first touchdown (which is tied for the third-longest punt return in LSU history).
He had 125 yards on three punt returns (which ranks eighth in LSU history for punt return yards in a single game).
The punt return yards were part of the 173 all-purpose yards that Konz accumulated.
In addition, Konz intercepted three Tulane passes (which is tied for the lead in LSU history for interceptions in a single game).
After the game, LSU head coach Gaynell Tinsley said:
“On every tackle, it seemed like we had four men or more around the ball. Konz played the greatest game at safety I ever witnessed.”
For the 1949 season, Konz rushed for 218 yards on 31 rushing attempts, caught two passes for 27 yards, and completed one pass for 13 yards.
LSU had a 4-5-2 record in 1950.
An Associated Press article from November 17, 1950 described Konz as “the best all-around player in the Southeastern Conference”.
One attribute of Konz that helped him be successful was his speed; he could run 100 yards in 9.9 seconds.
Konz rushed for 286 yards on 73 rushing attempts and caught seven passes for 126 yards in 1950.
For his play in 1950, Konz was named to the first team All-SEC team by the Associated Press and the second team All-SEC team by United Press International.
LSU sportscaster John Ferguson said about Konz:
“He’s one of those special men who have made LSU football what it is. Kenny wasn’t a big man, but he had a lot of ability, and he played with a big heart.”
Konz graduated from LSU with a degree in geology.
He concluded his college football career by playing in the 1950 Blue-Gray game (he was Most Valuable Player of the game) and the 1951 Senior Bowl.
Konz then headed to professional football.
The Pro Football Years
The Cleveland Browns drafted Konz in the first round of the 1951 NFL draft as the 14th overall pick.
However, Konz did not immediately join Cleveland.
Instead, he served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War.
After two years of military service, Konz became a member of the Browns in 1953.
Playing at a height of five feet and ten inches and a weight of 184 pounds, Konz, as a rookie, immediately became a starter in the Browns defensive backfield.
He started all 12 regular season games at right safety in 1953.
In Konz’s first NFL regular season game, a 27-0 Cleveland shutout of the Green Bay Packers on September 27, 1953, Konz helped the Browns defense hold the Packers to only 148 total yards (including only 55 “net pass yards”) and force four Packers turnovers.
For the 1953 regular season, Konz intercepted five passes, which he returned for 15 yards, and recovered one fumble.
The Browns (who had won the NFL championship in 1950, lost in the NFL championship game in 1951 and 1952, and won their division title in 1950, 1951, and 1952) won the NFL East Division title in 1953, with an 11-1 record.
Konz helped Cleveland’s defense rank in the NFL regular season in 1953 first in fewest points allowed (162), tied for third in sacks (32), and fifth in fewest rushing yards allowed (1,560).
Cleveland advanced to the 1953 NFL championship game against the Detroit Lions on December 27, 1953.
Konz started the game as a defensive back, but Cleveland lost to Detroit 17-16.
In 1954, Konz played in all 12, and started four, regular season games at left safety.
In the 1954 regular season, Konz intercepted seven passes, which he returned for 133 yards (ranking second in the NFL); he also returned two kickoffs for 53 yards and seven punts for 37 yards.
With a 9-3 record, the Browns again won the NFL East Division title in 1954.
Konz contributed to Cleveland’s defense ranking in the NFL regular season in 1954 first in fewest points allowed (162), first in fewest total passing and rushing yards allowed (2,658), tied for fourth in recovered fumbles (19), first in fewest passing yards allowed (1,608), first in fewest rushing yards allowed (1,050), and first in lowest average yards per rushing attempt allowed (2.8).
For the third consecutive year in an NFL championship game, the Browns met the Detroit Lions on December 26, 1954.
Konz started the game and was involved in three Lions turnovers.
First, Konz forced a fumble from his tackle of Detroit end Jug Girard (recovered by Browns linebacker Walt Michaels) to stop a potential Lions scoring threat before halftime.
Second, in the third quarter, Konz intercepted future Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Bobby Layne and returned the interception for 18 yards, setting up a Cleveland touchdown.
Third, Konz intercepted Layne again in the fourth quarter on a deflected pass and returned the interception for 10 yards, helping to set up another Browns touchdown.
With the Cleveland defense forcing nine Lions turnovers, the Browns avenged their losses to the Lions in the prior two championship games, defeating Detroit 56-10 (for Cleveland’s second NFL championship).
After the game, Konz stated:
“The defense wanted to prove something to [Browns head coach] Paul Brown because of the way they had beaten us. We wanted to prove we had the best defense in the league.”
In 1955, Konz started all 12 regular season games at left safety.
For the 1955 regular season, Konz intercepted five passes, which he returned for 32 yards, and recovered three fumbles; he also returned three kickoffs for 66 yards and 17 punts for 138 yards (his 8.1 average yards per punt return ranking third in the NFL).
— This Was Cleveland (@thiswascle) September 10, 2017
Konz was invited to the Pro Bowl for his play in 1955.
He also was named second-team All-Pro by the Associated Press in 1955.
The Browns posted a 9-2-1 record and won another NFL East Division title in 1955.
Konz helped Cleveland’s defense rank in the NFL regular season in 1955 first in fewest points allowed (218), first in fewest total passing and rushing yards allowed (2,841), fifth in recovered turnovers (40), third in fewest passing yards allowed (1,652), fourth in defensive interceptions (25), first in fewest rushing yards allowed (1,189), and tied for second in lowest average yards per rushing attempt allowed (3.4).
On December 26, 1955, the Browns met the Los Angeles Rans in the 1955 NFL championship game.
As in 1954, Konz started the game and had two interceptions.
— Old Time Football 🏈 (@Ol_TimeFootball) May 16, 2020
First, in the first quarter, Konz stopped a Rams drive when he intercepted future Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Norm Van Brocklin and returned the interception for 12 yards.
Second, Konz prevented a Rams score in the second quarter when he intercepted Van Brocklin again (this time in the end zone for a touchback).
Konz also returned a punt for 24 yards in the third quarter, which helped set up a Cleveland touchdown.
The Browns repeated as NFL champions in 1955 (winning Cleveland’s third NFL championship), defeating Los Angeles 38-14.
Cleveland’s defense forced seven Rams turnovers.
Konz again started all 12 regular-season games at left safety in 1956.
In 1956, Konz was named second team All-Pro by United Press International and first team All-Conference by Sporting News.
Cleveland, hurt by the retirement of future Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Otto Graham, fell to a 5-7 record in 1956.
However, Konz’s play helped the Browns defense still play well, ranking in the NFL regular season in 1956 first in fewest points allowed (177), second in fewest total passing and rushing yards allowed (3,135), first in fewest passing yards allowed (1,103), and tied for fifth in defensive interceptions (18).
In 1957, Konz again started all 12 regular season games at left safety.
In addition, during the 1957 regular season, Konz punted 61 times (ranking fourth in the NFL) for 2,396 yards, including a long punt of 63 yards.
Konz was named first team All-Conference by Sporting News in 1957.
With a 9-2-1 record in 1957, the Browns won the NFL East Division title.
Konz helped Cleveland’s defense rank in the NFL regular season in 1957 first in fewest points allowed (172), second in fewest total passing and rushing yards allowed (2,802), first in fewest total passing yards allowed (1,300), tied for fourth in defensive interceptions (19), fifth in sacks (26), fourth in fewest rushing yards allowed (1,502), and tied for fifth in lowest average yards per rushing attempt allowed (3.8).
Cleveland advanced to the 1957 NFL championship game against the Detroit Lions on December 29, 1957.
Konz started the game and punted four times for 142 yards, but Detroit defeated the Browns 59-14.
For the fourth consecutive year, Konz started all 12 regular season games at left safety in 1958.
Cleveland had a 9-3 record in 1958, tying for first place in the NFL East Division with the New York Giants.
With Konz at safety, the Browns defense ranked in the NFL regular season in 1958 third in fewest points allowed (217), fifth in fewest total passing and rushing yards allowed (3,660), tied for fourth in recovered fumbles (18), fourth in fewest rushing yards allowed (1,448), and tied for fourth in lowest average yards per rushing attempt allowed (3.9).
On December 21, 1958, Cleveland played the New York Giants in a tiebreaker playoff game.
Konz started the game and returned three punts for nine yards, and Cleveland’s defense forced four New York turnovers, but the Browns lost to the Giants 10-0.
In 1959, Konz played in all 12, and started three, regular season games.
In what turned out to be Konz’s last season in the NFL, he had one interception, which he returned for 35 yards, and nine punt returns, which he returned for 34 yards, during the 1959 regular season.
The Browns posted a 7-5 record in 1959.
Konz contributed to the Cleveland defense ranking in the NFL regular season in 1959 third in fewest points allowed (214), second in fewest rushing yards allowed (1,422), and tied for fifth in lowest average yards per rushing attempt allowed (4.0).
Konz retired from playing in the NFL after the 1959 season.
The Years After the NFL
Konz was married for 30 years to Sue.
He had a daughter, Charlene.
After his NFL retirement, Konz worked in sports marketing.
He also had his own collection agency.
Konz was a member of the Akron Browns Backers.
He died on February 5, 2008 in Alliance, Ohio, due to complications from pneumonia, at the age of 79.
In 1951, Konz was elected to the LSU Athletics Hall of Fame.
Konz was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 2000.
In 2003, he was inducted into the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame.
Konz was one of the top Browns at intercepting passes in team history.
He ranks tied for fifth in Cleveland career regular season interceptions (30), eighth in Cleveland career regular season interception return yards (392), and second in Cleveland career regular season interception touchdowns (4).
In addition to intercepting passes, Konz was an excellent punt returner for the Browns.
He ranks tied for ninth in Cleveland career regular season punt returns (68), eleventh in Cleveland career regular season punt return yards (556), and tied for seventh in Cleveland career regular season punt return touchdowns (1).
Konz also contributed to the Browns with his kickoff returns, kicking (extra points), and punting.
With his versatile performance in many areas of football, Konz helped the Browns achieve team success.
During Konz’s seven years with the Browns, Cleveland had a winning record in six seasons, played in a playoff game in five seasons, and won the NFL East Division title and advanced to the NFL championship game in four seasons (1953, 1954, 1955, and 1957).
In addition, from 1953 through 1959, Konz helped Cleveland’s defense rank each year in the top five in multiple NFL regular season defensive statistical categories, including ranking first in each year from 1953 through 1957 in fewest points allowed.
Yet, for all of Konz’s accomplishments (including three consecutive years of Pro Bowl, All-Pro, and/or All-Conference honors), nothing is more significant than his play in the 1954 and 1955 NFL championship games.
In these important games in Browns history, Konz excelled, with two interceptions and a forced fumble in 1954 and two interceptions and a long punt return in 1955, helping Cleveland win two championships.
For his outstanding performance in the 1954 and 1955 NFL championship games, when added to his otherwise stellar play over seven seasons, Ken Konz deserves to be inducted into the Cleveland Browns Legends Program.