The Mighty Minnie, Part 1

Rich Passan talks to the great Browns cornerback about what he's doing today and those great Browns teams fron the mid-80s.

He was called the Mighty Minnie. He stood 5-9 and a fraction, weighed maybe 180 pounds, but played like he was 6-3, 205.
 
Frank Minnifield was one of the quintessential cornerbacks for his time in the National Football League. He was brash, bold and loved to talk. To opponents, that is. The man delivered his trash with the best of them. And he always backed it up.
 
He was good at what he did. He knew it and wanted opponents to know it. When NFL wide receivers lined up against him from 1984 to 1992, he made certain they knew it.
 
For six of the nine seasons he played for the Browns, the Mighty One teamed with Hanford Dixon to wreak havoc on NFL wide receivers and become arguably the best cornerback tandem in team history.
 
Opponents were forced to run the ball more against the Browns because they knew that throwing the ball was a far greater risk. If it was an obvious passing situation against the Cleveland defense, it was advantage Browns with Minnifield, who had an incredible 44-inch vertical jump, and Dixon on the corners.
 
It was not uncommon to see them go nose to nose with receivers at the snap. Reach out and touch someone seemed to be their motto. They were truly shutdown corners.
 
The key was preparation for the co-founders of the Dawg Pound. Countless hours of film study translated into extraordinary success.
 
Although his name appears in the Browns' record books just once – he intercepted three passes against the Houston Oilers in 1987 – Minnifield's impact on the way the Browns played defense was paramount in leading the team to the precipice of the Super Bowl on three occasions.
 
Minnifield, who signed with the Browns as a free agent after the United States Football League went out of business in 1984, went on to become an All-Pro three times and appeared in four Pro Bowls. He retired following the 1992 season and moved back to his native Lexington, Ky., where he has become a highly successful businessman. He lives there with his wife, Diane, son Chase, 17, and daughter Chanel, 14.
 
And there could be another Minnifield on the NFL horizon. Chase is following in dad's footsteps. The 6-1, 180-pound cornerback at Henry Clay High School in Lexington has verbally committed to attend the University of Virginia in 2007.
 
The Orange & Brown Report recently spoke with the Mighty One.
 
The OBR: What keeps you busy these days?
 
Frank Minnifield: I consider myself an automobile vendor. I do a lot of different services for the automotive industry; a little bit of construction; and a little bit of facility maintenance. That entails about four different companies. Probably my core business is what they call cross docking. It's an industry that has sprung up because of the just-in-time arrival that Toyota demands from all their vendors. That philosophy basically says that Toyota is unwilling to warehouse anymore than they can use on a single day. So if you sell Toyota radios, they only want the exact number of radios they're going to need for that day.
 
What cross docking basically is . . . companies that do business with Toyota that are not within a rock's throw of the plant, they need a service we provide in order to facilitate this just-in-time arrival. We also have a union electrical company that operates in the Toyota plant. We're facility maintenance people. When they need something moved, they need something fixed, then we are one of several companies that do that for them.
 
The OBR: You mentioned construction.
 
Frank Minnifield: When I got back to Lexington, the first thing I started was a new residential home company. We built residential homes for about 10 years. Lately, we've been moving away from the residential industry, doing more commercial buildings. We had the opportunity to build two banks and two restaurants this past year. We've built baseball fields, football fields. Just about anything that's construction related, we've had an opportunity to do it.
 
The OBR: I see you've been involved in the community as well.
 
Frank Minnifield: That's the big circle of life. If you make yourself available and find a way to help, then usually somebody will help you and they'll give back to you.
 
The OBR: What do you do to that end?
 
Frank Minnifield: I probably have served on most of the major civic boards in the Lexington area. I've served on the United Way board, the Chamber of Commerce board, the Lextran board, the Boys and Girls Clubs boards, I served on one of the bank boards. It's just part of your civic duty to do your turn on these different boards out there. I served on the Salvation Army board. But probably one of the things I have the most fun doing is helping the NFL Players Association in the state of Kentucky. Right now I'm serving as the treasurer. I'm one of the past presidents of the organization. I'm the chairperson who puts  on the annual golf tournament. And we consider our golf tournament the most exciting golf tournament in the whole world.
 
The OBR: Why's that?
 
Frank Minnifield: We don't play that boring five-man scramble outing you see most NFL chapters do, where you get four corporate sponsors and then you add one pro football player with them and then play a round of golf together. We play a little more exciting brand of golf than that. We play an elimination format where every team has got to be eliminated before the end of the day.
 
The OBR: How many teams are there?
 
Frank Minnifield: We start out with 30 teams. We play it on what they call an executive course. As a matter of fact, I own the course. We play a qualifying round in the morning and eliminate half the teams. Then we go into a hole-by-hole elimination shootout where every team has got to be eliminated. Then we play an alternating-shot format.
 
The OBR: Has your team ever won?
 
Frank Minnifield: Matter of fact, my team won this year for the first time in 10 years. So I've got bragging rights for a whole year.
 
The OBR: Sounds like you're going to take advantage of it.
 
Frank Minnifield: Believe me, it's a very hostile situation during the elimination process. The guys are very, very brutal when you get eliminated.
 
The OBR: Also sounds like you have a lot of fun, much like you had fun on a football field. When you hear the name Cleveland Browns and the contributions you made to Cleveland football, what goes through your mind?
 
Frank Minnifield: It's probably a hodgepodge of emotions. It was a fun time for me to reflect on. I regret the fact we couldn't win a Super Bowl. It wasn't because we didn't provide the preparation and effort necessary to win it. We had a run of bad luck against one team and, consequently, history probably will not justly speak real highly of the team we had.

Continued on Monday...!


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