The Owl: Paul Wiggin Remembers the Feeling

The Owl is seeing little activity as he soars over Berea, so he decided to visit an old friend who played a huge role in the Browns' last championship. Paul Wiggen embodied the spirit of the 1964 team, and remembers what it was like...

In recent weeks I have had the privilege of speaking to Frank Ryan and Jim Brown to ask them for their recollections of the Browns' last championship so long ago.

Well, things are still mighty slow in Berea. They will be picking up soon with minicamp set to start two weeks from Friday, so I thought I'd take advantage of the lull again to write about a player who was not one of the stars, but nevertheless was a big part of beating the Colts 27-0.

Paul Wiggin, as much as any player on the 1964 championship team, embodied the spirit of the Browns 42 years ago.

Wiggin was not a great player, yet he fit on the defensive line that included Bill Glass at right end and Jim Kanicki and Dick Modzielewski at tackle. One book, titled simply "Cleveland Browns," refers to Glass as "the good defensive end" on the 1964 team.

Thirty-nine years after retiring from the Browns after the 1967 season, Wiggin is still involved in the NFL. He is the Director of Pro Scouting for the Minnesota Vikings. And while he might not have been the best defensive player to play for the Browns, he was good enough to do so for 11 years.

"What I remember most about that 1964 season is the championship game itself," Wiggin said. "I remember walking off the field and looking up at the lights. I said to myself, ‘if I want to climb up that pole and scream at the top of my lungs, it would have been OK because I'm a world champion.

"That feeling lasted maybe 10 minutes. But you know what? I felt that. And most people in the world will never, ever feel it. It's a feeling that's so special you can't define it."

Wiggin was the head coach at Stanford when John Elway played there and he was head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs. He was an assistant coach in New Orleans and San Francisco.

Part of Wiggin's heart will always be in Cleveland, he said. A big part. He came to the Browns in 1957 because Len Ford was at the end of his career and Coach Paul Brown needed another intelligent, physical defensive end to take his place.

Wiggin, from Stanford, had the smarts. And he had the size. After all these years, he still looks fit. He still has the same brush cut that was his trade mark in 1957, the same season Jim Brown was a rookie.

"I remember the first time I came to camp," Wiggin said. "Lenny Ford said to me, ‘Paul, let me tell you about the Browns. You have to play and stay in contention from game to game. But when the snow falls, be ready to hit it, because we're the Cleveland Browns, and we have to be our best when the snow falls.'

"And if you look at that 1964 team, we were really good at the end. Really good. That's when we realized we were good enough to beat anybody in football. We had a quiet urgency.

"They talk about the locker room the day of the game. I don't think the locker room had that much to do with it. It was the preparation going in. We knew them like a book."

The Browns were 10-3-1 in 1964, back when the NFL consisted of 14 teams in two divisions. Baltimore won the Western Division (geography never has been a strength of the NFL). The Browns had to beat the Giants on the final game of the regular season to advance to the championship.

The Browns didn't just beat the Giants. They pulverized them 52-20. A week earlier, they were beaten 28-19 by the Cardinals in St. Louis, forcing the urgency Wiggin spoke of.

There is a sense of urgency within the Browns now. You'll feel it if you visit training camp this summer, and now that is less than two months away.

It is not a sense of urgency to win a championship this year, perhaps. Going from 6-10 to winning the Super Bowl is a lot to ask. But fans have been faithful literally for generations with little gain for their loyalty. The thought of Charlie Frye wanting to climb on top of the lights at Cleveland Browns Stadium and scream is tantalizing.


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