For many football players, playing in the NFL is the high point of their lives.
After they retire from football, they have difficulty in finding another activity that matches their success on the gridiron.
Such was not the case with Tony Adamle.
After a six-year career with the Cleveland Browns, where Adamle earned Pro Bowl invitations and All-Pro honors and won five championships, Adamle found success in a new field.
#Browns to induct Bernie Parrish and Tony Adamle into Legends during Alumni Weekend
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) September 29, 2017
He became “Dr. Tony Adamle” and practiced medicine in Ohio for the rest of his life.
We look at the life of Tony Adamle – before, during, and after his NFL playing career.
The Early Years Through High School
Anthony “Tony” Adamle was born in Fairmont, West Virginia on May 15, 1924.
Adamle’s parents, Victoria and Joseph, were immigrants from Slovenia.
Adamle had two sisters and one brother.
When Adamle was a child, his family moved to Cleveland.
Adamle attended Collinwood High School in Cleveland, graduating in 1942.
At Collinwood High School, Adamle earned three varsity letters in football.
He excelled as a fullback at Collinwood High School.
Franklin Lewis, sports editor of the Cleveland Press, said about Adamle in 1941:
“Adamle is without question the best high school player I have ever seen in action. If Tony gets to play college football in the next four years, he is certain to be Cleveland’s one safe bet as an all-America possibility.”
Adamle was part of an All-Star team selected by the Cleveland Press that played a postseason game in Florida in 1941.
In addition, as a senior, Adamle was named to the All-Ohio team by both the Associated Press and United Press International.
Adamle was a hall guard and a good student in high school.
After graduating Collinwood High School, Adamle headed to Columbus, Ohio to attend Ohio State University for college.
In 1942, Adamle played on the Ohio State freshman football team, which was undefeated.
However, Adamle did not play college football again for four years.
Instead, Adamle served in the U.S. Air Force during World War II.
Adamle saw action in the Mediterranean and Middle East areas.
Adamle returned to Ohio State in 1946 and played his only year of varsity football.
In a 39-27 Ohio State victory over Northwestern (then ranked sixth in the nation by the Associated Press) on November 2, 1946, Adamle intercepted two Northwestern passes.
One of Adamle’s teammates on the 1946 Ohio State team was his future Cleveland Browns teammate Tommy James.
The Buckeyes had a 4-3-2 record in 1946.
Adamle still had eligibility to play for Ohio State in 1947.
However, under special rules adopted for players who had served in World War II, Adamle also was eligible to play professional football.
In the 1947 NFL draft, Adamle was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the 12th round.
He was the 105th overall pick.
The Cleveland Browns, in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC), also had an interest in acquiring Adamle.
A number of former Buckeyes, future Pro Football Hall of Famers Lou Groza, Dante Lavelli, and Bill Willis, and Gene Fekete, were now Cleveland Browns, and they may have helped convince Adamle to join the Browns.
Adamle signed a contract with Cleveland before the beginning of the 1947 AAFC season.
After his 1947 season with Cleveland, Adamle returned to Ohio State in the offseason to continue his education.
Adamle ultimately would earn a bachelor’s degree from Kent State University in 1950 and a master’s degree in education from Western Reserve University in 1951.
After playing in the 1947 College All-Star game against the 1946 NFL champion Chicago Bears on August 22, 1947 (the College All-Stars shut out the Bears 16-0), Adamle headed to the Browns to play pro football.
The Pro Football Years
In 1947, at fullback and linebacker, Adamle played in all 14 regular season games and started one regular season game.
He played at a height of six feet and a weight of 215 pounds.
On November 16, 1947, in a 37-14 Cleveland win over the San Francisco 49ers, Adamle scored his first NFL touchdown on a one-yard run.
For the 1947 regular season, Adamle rushed for 95 yards on 23 rushing attempts and caught one pass for 22 yards.
He also had one kickoff return for 22 yards and one punt return (on a lateral) for 36 yards.
On defense, in the 1947 regular season, Adamle intercepted one pass, which he returned for 25 yards.
Adamle was part of a Browns offense that, in a 55-7 defeat of the Brooklyn Dodgers on September 12, 1947, a 41-21 win over the Chicago Rockets on September 26, 1947, and a 42-0 shutout of the Baltimore Colts (the Browns rushed for 334 yards) on December 7, 1947, scored over 40 points in three regular season games in 1947.
In addition, in the 55-7 defeat of the Dodgers (Cleveland held Brooklyn to 39 “net pass yards” and forced five Dodgers turnovers), a 28-0 shutout of the Baltimore Colts (the Browns forced six Baltimore turnovers) on September 21, 1947, a 14-7 victory over the San Francisco 49ers (Cleveland limited the 49ers to 85 “net pass yards”), a 28-7 win over the Buffalo Bills on November 2, 1947, and the 42-0 shutout of the Colts (the Browns forced four Colts turnovers), Adamle was part of a Cleveland defense that held its opponent to seven or fewer points in five regular season games in 1947.
The Browns won the AAFC West Division title in 1947 with a 12-1-1 record.
Adamle contributed to Cleveland’s offense ranking in the AAFC regular season in 1947 first in points scored (410), first in total passing and rushing yards (5,547), first in fewest turnovers (28), first in passing yards (2,990), third in rushing yards (2,557), and second in average yards per rushing attempt (5.3).
On defense, Adamle’s play contributed to the Browns ranking in the AAFC regular season in 1947 first in fewest points allowed (185), second in fewest total passing and rushing yards allowed (3,888), first in recovered turnovers (51), first in fewest passing yards allowed (1,707), and first in defensive interceptions (32).
Cleveland advanced to play in the 1947 AAFC championship game on December 14, 1947 against the New York Yankees.
Adamle played in, but did not start, the game.
The Browns held the Yankees to only 89 “net pass yards” and defeated New York 14-3.
It was Cleveland’s second consecutive AAFC championship (the Browns had won the first AAFC championship in 1946 before Adamle joined the team).
In 1948, Adamle played in all 14, but did not start any, regular season games.
He again played fullback and linebacker.
On November 25, 1948, Adamle scored his second NFL touchdown on a 19-yard run, as the Browns defeated the Los Angeles Dons 31-14.
— Kevin Gallagher (@KevG163) June 21, 2017
Adamle rushed for 88 yards on 17 rushing attempts in the 1948 regular season.
In 1948, Adamle was part of a Browns offense that again scored over 40 points in a regular season game, as Cleveland defeated the Buffalo Bills 42-13 on September 12, 1948.
Adamle also was part of a Cleveland defense that, in a 28-7 victory over the Chicago Rockets (the Browns forced six Rockets turnovers) on September 17, 1948, a 35-7 win over the New York Yankees on October 24, 1948, a 28-7 defeat of the Baltimore Colts on November 7, 1948, and a 14-7 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on November 14, 1948 (Cleveland held San Francisco to only 32 “net pass yards” and forced six 49ers turnovers), held its opponent to only seven points in four regular season games in 1948.
With a perfect 14-0 record, Cleveland again won the AAFC West Division title in 1948.
On offense, Adamle’s play contributed to the Browns ranking in the AAFC regular season in 1948 second in points scored (389), third in total passing and rushing yards (5,366), first in fewest turnovers (27), second in passing yards (2,809), third in rushing yards (2,557), and third in average yards per rushing attempt (4.7).
In addition, Adamle contributed to Cleveland’s defense ranking in the AAFC regular season in 1948 first in fewest points allowed (190), first in fewest total passing and rushing yards allowed (3,616), second in fewest passing yards allowed (2,097), first in fewest rushing yards allowed (1,519), and first in lowest average yards per rushing attempt allowed (3.5).
The Browns met the Buffalo Bills in the 1948 AAFC championship game on December 19, 1948.
Adamle did not start the game, but intercepted a pass (which he returned for four yards).
The Browns defense forced eight Buffalo turnovers, as the Browns defeated the Bills 49-7 to win Cleveland’s third consecutive AAFC championship.
In 1949, Adamle, at fullback and linebacker, played in all 12, and started two, regular season games.
He rushed for 64 yards on 17 rushing attempts and caught one pass for 13 yards in the 1949 regular season.
He also intercepted four passes, which he returned for 42 yards.
Adamle was part of a Browns offense that, in a 42-7 win over the Los Angeles Dons on October 2, 1949 and a 61-14 victory over the Dons (Cleveland had 423 passing yards) on October 14, 1949, scored over 40 points in two regular season games in 1949.
In addition, Adamle was part of a Cleveland defense that held its opponent to seven or fewer points in seven regular season games in 1949 – a 21-0 shutout of the Baltimore Colts (Cleveland held the Colts to 75 “net pass yards” and forced four Colts turnovers) on September 11, 1949, a 14-3 defeat of the New York Yankees on September 18, 1949, the 42-7 win over the Dons, a 35-2 victory over the Chicago Hornets (the Browns held Chicago to 46 rushing yards and forced six Rockets turnovers) on November 6, 1949, a 7-7 tie with the Buffalo Bills (Cleveland held Buffalo to 82 “net pass yards”) on November 13, 1949, a 31-0 shutout of the Yankees (the Yankees committed eight turnovers) on November 20, 1949, and a 14-6 defeat of the Hornets (Cleveland held the Hornets to 87 “net pass yards” and forced four Hornets turnovers) on November 24, 1949.
Cleveland, with a 9-1-2 record, finished in first place in the AAFC regular season in 1949.
Adamle contributed to the Browns offense ranking in the AAFC regular season in 1949 second in points scored (339), second in total passing and rushing yards (4,611), first in fewest turnovers (33), first in passing yards (2,929), and tied for third in average yards per rushing attempt (4.2).
On defense, Adamle’s play contributed to Cleveland ranking in the AAFC regular season in 1949 first in fewest points allowed (171), third in fewest total passing and rushing yards allowed (3,582), third in recovered turnovers (42), first in fewest passing yards allowed (1,677), and second in defensive interceptions (29).
In the 1949 AAFC playoffs, Cleveland first played the Buffalo Bills on December 4, 1949.
Adamle played in, but did not start, the game.
The Browns forced four Buffalo turnovers and defeated the Bills 31-21.
Cleveland then advanced to the 1949 AAFC championship game against the San Francisco 49ers on December 11, 1949.
Adamle again played in, but did not start, the game.
The Browns defeated the 49ers 21-7, winning Cleveland’s fourth consecutive AAFC championship.
The AAFC disbanded after the 1949 season.
The Browns were one of three AAFC teams which moved to the NFL for the 1950 season.
The move to the NFL did not adversely affect Adamle as he had an excellent season in 1950.
Principally playing at left linebacker, Adamle started all 12 regular season games in 1950.
Adamle also was named defensive captain of the Browns in 1950.
In the opening game of the 1950 regular season, on September 16, 1950, Adamle helped the Browns force five Philadelphia Eagles turnovers, in a 35-10 Cleveland victory over the Eagles.
It was a memorable game in Browns history, as the Eagles were the defending NFL champions; it showed that Cleveland could defeat NFL teams.
The following week, on September 24, 1950, with Adamle at linebacker, the Browns shutout the Baltimore Colts 31-0.
The Colts committed four turnovers.
On November 5, 1950, Adamle helped the Browns force five Chicago Cardinals turnovers, in a 10-7 Cleveland win over the Cardinals.
Adamle recovered a fumble, which helped to set up Cleveland’s only touchdown.
With Adamle at linebacker, on December 3, 1950, Cleveland again defeated the Eagles 13-7.
The Browns held the Eagles to 81 “net pass yards” and forced four Philadelphia turnovers.
Before the game, Eagles coach Greasy Neale made certain “bulletin-board” comments that upset the Browns.
Adamle used the comments to help motivate his team.
Browns head coach Paul Brown said:
“Neale was shooting off his bazooka. His comments were bad for football. But he did get our men steamed up. [Captain] Tony Adamle called a secret huddle before the kickoff. The boys were mad.”
In the 1950 regular season, Adamle intercepted a pass, which he returned for 17 yards, and recovered five fumbles (which tied for first in the NFL).
He also rushed for eight yards on three rushing attempts and returned four kickoffs for 53 yards.
Adamle received his first Pro Bowl invitation in 1950.
He also was named second team All-Pro by the New York Daily News.
The Browns, with a 10-2 record, tied for first place in the NFL American Division in 1950 with the New York Giants.
Adamle’s play helped the Browns defense rank in the NFL regular season in 1950 second in fewest points allowed (144), first in fewest total passing and rushing yards allowed (2,963), tied for first in recovered turnovers (55), tied for second in recovered fumbles (24), first in fewest passing yards allowed (1,390), tied for second in defensive interceptions (31), and third in lowest average yards per rushing attempt allowed (3.5).
Cleveland played a “tiebreaker” playoff game against New York on December 17, 1950.
With Adamle starting the game at left linebacker, Cleveland limited the Giants to only 13 “net pass yards”.
The Browns defeated New York 8-3.
The following week, on December 24, 1950, the Browns met the Los Angeles Rams in the 1950 NFL championship game.
Adamle started the game at left linebacker and helped Cleveland force five Rams turnovers, as the Browns defeated Los Angeles 30-28.
After the game, Adamle gathered the team and stated:
“Fellows, this is Christmas eve. We have plenty to be thankful for. I don’t believe we won this ball game all by ourselves. Let’s pause for a minute of silence, during which I’d like to have each of you offer thanks, and a little prayer, each in his own way.”
In four seasons of professional football, Adamle had won four championships.
In 1951, Adamle started all 12 regular season games at left linebacker.
On October 14, 1951, Adamle’s play helped Cleveland shut out the Washington Redskins 45-0.
The Browns forced seven Washington turnovers.
The following week, on October 21, 1951, Adamle helped the Browns shut out the Pittsburgh Steelers 17-0.
Cleveland held Pittsburgh to 96 “net pass yards” and forced four Steelers turnovers.
With Adamle at linebacker, Cleveland shut out the New York Giants 10-0 on November 18, 1951.
For Cleveland’s fourth shutout during the 1951 regular season, Adamle’s play helped the Browns again shut out the Steelers 28-0 on December 9, 1951.
Pittsburgh committed five turnovers.
Adamle intercepted a pass, which he returned for 12 yards, and recovered a fumble, in the 1951 regular season.
He received his second consecutive Pro Bowl invitation in 1951.
He also was named first team All-Pro by the New York Daily News and United Press International.
Cleveland, with an 11-1 record, won the NFL American Division title in 1951.
The Browns defense, with Adamle at linebacker, ranked in the NFL regular season in 1951 first in fewest points allowed (152), second in fewest total passing and rushing yards allowed (3,002), second in recovered turnovers (51), first in recovered fumbles (29), third in fewest passing yards allowed (1,548), first in sacks (54), second in fewest rushing yards allowed (1,454), and third in lowest average yards per rushing attempt allowed (3.4).
The Browns advanced to play the Los Angeles Rams in the 1951 NFL championship game on December 23, 1951.
Adamle started the game at left linebacker, but Cleveland lost to the Rams 24-17.
Although Adamle was at the peak of his football career, he moved his life in a different direction in 1952.
Adamle decided to retire from playing in the NFL to attend medical school at Western Reserve University.
However, Adamle was not done playing in the NFL. In 1954, when Cleveland’s linebacker group suffered various injuries, Adamle returned to the Browns for one more season.
In 1954, Adamle played in 11, and started two, regular season games.
Adamle was part of a Cleveland defense that that held its opponent to seven or fewer points in six regular season games in 1954 – a 31-7 victory over the Chicago Cardinals on October 10, 1954, a 35-3 win over the Cardinals (Cleveland forced four Cardinals turnovers) on October 24, 1954, a 62-3 defeat of the Washington Redskins (the Browns held Washington to 31 “net pass yards” and 33 rushing yards and forced four Washington turnovers) on November 7, 1954, a 6-0 shutout of the Philadelphia Eagles (Cleveland held Philadelphia to 53 “net pass yards” and forced four Eagles turnovers) on November 21, 1954, a 16-7 victory over the New York Giants (the Browns held New York to 64 “net pass yards” and four rushing yards) on November 28, 1958, and a 42-7 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers (Cleveland held Pittsburgh to 75 “net pass yards” and forced six Steelers turnovers).
Cleveland won the NFL East Division title in 1954 with a 9-3 record.
Adamle contributed to the Browns 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), 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).
The Browns played the Detroit Lions in the 1954 NFL championship game on December 26, 1954.
Cleveland sought to avenge its losses to the Lions in the 1952 and 1953 NFL championship games.
Adamle played in, but did not start, the game.
The Lions committed nine turnovers, as Cleveland won its second NFL championship, defeating Detroit 56-10.
After the 1954 season, Adamle retired for good from the NFL.
The Years After the NFL
Adamle was married to Kathleen Duffy.
They had six children, Mike, Pat, Vic, Mark, Kelly, and Kerry. Adamle’s son, Mike, was a running back in the NFL for the Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets, and Chicago Bears from 1971 to 1976.
In 1956, Adamle received his medical degree from Western Reserve University.
Adamle established a medical practice in Kent, Ohio, which he operated for the rest of his life.
He also served as team doctor for Theodore Roosevelt High School (in Kent) and Kent State University.
Adamle did significant work in the area of sports medicine.
He specialized in knee and neck injuries, and published articles about the use of cold therapy and Vitamin C, in sports medicine.
He was named “Outstanding Team Physician” by the Ohio State Medical Society in 1983.
Adamle died on October 8, 2000, at the age of 76.
He was inducted into the Cleveland Browns Legends Program in 2017.
Browns induct Bernie Parrish and Tony Adamle into Legends program during a halftime ceremony https://t.co/Dx2rQB7e0S
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) October 1, 2017
Two phrases should be used to describe Adamle in his NFL playing career – consistent winner and contributor to team excellence.
— NFL Legends (@NFLLegends) October 3, 2017
Very few players can match Adamle’s record of winning five combined AAFC and NFL championships in six professional football seasons.
As for the other season, it would be hard to describe 1951 as a “failure” for Adamle, as Cleveland had an 11-1 record and advanced to the NFL championship game.
In addition, very few players can match Adamle’s record of helping both the offensive and defensive units on which he played achieve excellence.
For the three seasons that Adamle principally played on offense, the Browns offense ranked first, second, or third each year in regular season points scored and regular season total passing and rushing yards.
For the six seasons that Adamle played on defense, the Browns defense ranked first, second, or third each year in fewest regular season points allowed and fewest regular season total passing and rushing yards allowed.
While Adamle contributed to the success of the Browns, he contributed to an even bigger and more important “team” by being a doctor – society.
Paul Brown and Browns fans should be proud of Dr. Tony Adamle not only for his football skills, but also for his work helping people as a doctor.