For a long time, it seemed, people had generally forgotten about Horace Gillom.
That can happen, unfortunately, when you've been gone well over 20 years – even for someone whose star once shone as bright as did Gillom's.
Now, though, people can't stop remembering him.
Less than two years after being inducted into the Cleveland Browns Legends, the late Gillom was among the class of 2009 inducted Friday night into the Stark County High School Football Hall of Fame during a banquet at a Canton, Ohio area restaurant.
Another ex-Brown, quarterback John Borton of Alliance, will also be inducted posthumously.
Before he became the man still considered to be the best punter in Browns history, Gillom was a standout at Massillon High School. His head coach there, Paul Brown, who would go on to guide Ohio State to its first national championship and then serve as the Pro Football Hall of Fame head coach and general manager of the Browns for the first 17 years of their existence, called him "the best high school football player I ever coached." And that's saying a lot, for Brown coached a lot of great ones at Massillon from 1932-40, including cornerback Tommy James, who would go on to play for him in Cleveland and was inducted into the Browns Legends in 2004, and Lin Houston, an offensive guard on the first eight Browns teams.
Before he followed Brown to Ohio State for a brief period before being drafted into the Army in World War II, Gillom played on the coach's last three teams at Massillon as a two-way end and punter and never lost a game. He was named the state's top player as a senior in 1940, when the Tigers outscored their first nine foes by a whopping 373-0 en route to giving up just six points on the year and going 10-0 to capture the state poll championship. In fact, Massillon shut out 16 of its 20 foes in Gillom's last two seasons, and in 1940, he set a school scoring record for receivers of 108 points that has still never been beaten and wasn't even tied until 2002.
He was also outstanding on defense, leading the Tigers in interceptions with six as a junior.
But it was punting where Gillom really stood out. He is said to have routinely kicked the ball above the height of the stadium lights, causing returners – and fans – to lose sight of it.
A tremendous all-around athlete, Gillom also starred in track, leading the team in scoring both years and being a member of the school record-setting 880-yard relay team for two years, and was one of the leading scorers on Massillon's state semifinal basketball teams in 1939 and '40.
When he got out of the service, he played as a receiver for a year at the University of Nevada, helping the school lead the nation in passing.
In 1947, he began a 10-year career with the Browns. He caught 74 passes for 1,083 and three touchdowns and also saw time at defensive end, but again, it was with his punting that he really outdistanced the competition – literally and figuratively. He led the NFL in kicking average in both 1951 (45.6) and '52 (45.7) and, by the time he retired following the 1957 season, he had a 43.82 career average, which stood as the team record until last season when Dave Zastudil surpassed it by just .18.
Gillom died on Oct. 28, 1985 at the age of 64.
Borton, who passed away on April 9, 2002 at 69, was a three-year starter at Alliance, being named All-Ohio as a senior in 1950. One of the younger boys in town who idolized him then was Len Dawson, who also starred at quarterback for the Aviators and then played for the Browns for two years (1960 and '61) before beginning a Hall of Fame career with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Borton played at Ohio State, captaining Woody Hayes' Rose Bowl team in 1954 but sitting out his senior season when the Buckeyes won the national title. He was a 13th-round choice of the Browns in the 1955 NFL Draft, but because of military service, he didn't join the club for two more years, playing just that 1957 season before retiring. He returned home and worked 27 years for a Canton steel maker, eventually rising to the position of vice president.
The induction of Borton and Gillom will bring to 11 the number of ex-Browns in the Stark County High School Football HOF. Already in are James, Lin Houston, Brown, Jim Houston (Massillon), Ray Ellis (Canton McKinley), Vince Costello (Magnolia, now Sandy Valley), Dawson, Chris Spielman (Massillon) and Pro Football Hall of Famer Marion Motley (McKinley).
Brown, Costello, Dawson, Motley, Jim Houston and Spielman were in the first class of inductees in 2002.
RUTIGLIANO, BRENNAN HONORED: Sam Rutigliano, head coach of the Browns from 1978-84, during the Kardiac Kids era, and wide receiver Brian Brennan, who played for the team from 1984 to '91 and is tied for fifth in career receptions with 315, will be inducted into the Greater Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame in ceremonies on Sept. 17 in the Cleveland suburb of Lyndhurst. Former Browns already in the HOF include Tony Adamle, Chet Adams, Dick Ambrose, Bubba Baker, Tom Cousineau, Doug Dieken, Bob Gain, Lou Groza, Gene Hickerson, Robert E. Jackson, Dante Lavelli, Cliff Lewis, Jim Martin, Marion Motley, Chuck Noll, Greg Pruitt, Mike Pruitt, Paul Warfield, Bill Willis and John Yonakor.
COCKROFT AN ALL-TIME BEST: Former Browns kicker Don Cockroft, who had the difficult task of following a Pro Football Hall of Famer in Lou Groza but still became a star in his own right in a career that lasted from 1968-80, was honored recently as one of the top 24 players in Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference history when the league held its centennial celebration recently. Cockroft, who played at Adams State and joins former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Byron "Whizzer" White (Colorado) and Pro Football Hall of Famer Earl "Dutch" Clark (Colorado College) on the team, had the longest pro career of any athlete in any sport in the 100-year history of the RMAC. He averaged 48.0 yards per punt as a senior in 1966 and is second all-time in NAIA punting with a 44.53 average.
COPELAND ENSHRINED: Jim Copeland, an offensive guard for the Browns from 1967-74, was inducted into the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics. The NACDA is the professional and educational association for more than 6,500 college athletics administrators at more than 1,600 institutions throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico. Copeland served as an athletic director at Utah, Virginia, William & Mary and Southern Methodist, from which he retired in 2006.
MARSHALL INDUCTED: Jim Marshall, who played for the Browns in 1960 before going on to a stellar career as a defensive end with the Minnesota Vikings, went into the Kentucky Pro Football Hall of Fame recently. Marshall was born in Wilsonville but moved to Columbus, Ohio when he was five, setting the state for him to go to Ohio State. The Browns took him in the fourth round of the 1960 NFL Draft. Other ex-Browns already in the HOF are Frank Minnifield, Bob Gain, Marty Moore, Vito "Babe" Parilli, Ted Washington, Tim Couch and Romeo Crennel.
CALL HIM MR. MAYOR: Michael Jackson Dyson, wide receiver for the last five years of the original Browns from 1991-95, was recently elected as mayor of the village of Tangipahoa, La., where he was born and raised. In addition to his role as mayor, he is the president of a company he created, Big Play Productions.
DAVIS A LEGEND: Willie Davis, who played defensive end for the Browns in 1958 and '59 before going on to become a Pro Football Hall of Famer with the Green Bay Packers, is among the first group of 25 inductees into the Grambling Legends Sports Hall of Fame. The ceremony will be held on Saturday. The HOFl was established by former Grambling and NFL standouts James Harris and Doug Williams to "ensure that these legends, their memories and accomplishments are cemented into historical posterity."