Thom Darden

American football player (born 1950)

American football player
Thom Darden
refer to caption
Darden (No. 35) from 1972 Michiganensian
No. 27
Position:Safety
Personal information
Born: (1950-08-28) August 28, 1950 (age 73)
Sandusky, Ohio, U.S.
Height:6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Weight:195 lb (88 kg)
Career information
High school:Sandusky (OH)
College:Michigan
NFL draft:1972 / Round: 1 / Pick: 18
Career history
  • Cleveland Browns (1972–1981)
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Interceptions:45
INT yards:820
Touchdowns:2
Player stats at PFR

Thomas Vincent Darden (born August 28, 1950) is an American former professional football player who was a safety and punt returner for the Cleveland Browns of the National Football League (NFL). The Ohio native is memorable for important plays in both the Michigan–Ohio State football rivalry and the Bengals–Browns rivalry.

In nine NFL seasons, he was a three-time All-Pro free safety.[1][2][3] He earned a Pro Bowl selection in 1978.[4] He holds most Cleveland Browns franchise interception records. He was an All-American defensive back playing college football for the Michigan Wolverines, and made one of the more memorable interceptions in college history. After retiring from football, Darden pursued careers as a sports agent, security provider and business consultant.

Early life

Darden was born in Sandusky, Ohio. He graduated from Sandusky High School.[5]

College football

After graduating, he was recruited by six Big Ten Conference football programs in 1968.[6] He played at the University of Michigan from 1969 to 1971 and had 218 tackles and 11 interceptions.[7] He was an All American in 1971,[8] and he was also named All-Big Ten in 1970.[9] He played on Big Ten champions in both 1969 and 1971.[8][10] Thom fit in well at Michigan becoming one of Coach Bo Schembechler's prized pupils and earning a reference in his 2006 book Bo Schembechler. Darden still ranks among leaders at Michigan for Punt Returns and Punt Return Yardage. Darden played all defensive back positions at Michigan.[7] In college, Darden was a housemate of Reggie McKenzie, Glenn Doughty, Billy Taylor and Mike Taylor in a notable house known as the Den of the Mellow Men.[11]

ESPN chose Darden's November 21, 1971 interception in the rivalry game against Ohio State as one of the 100 Plays, performances and moments that define college football.[12] The play was a very controversial call late in the 10–7 game and Ohio State coach Woody Hayes stormed the field to rant at the referee Jerry Markbreit about the referee's call that Hayes thought should have been ruled pass interference.[13] By the end of Hayes' tirade, he had broken a yard marker, shredded a first-down indicator and earned two 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalties. The scene was replayed over and over on national television broadcasts.[14][15] That was Darden's second interception in that game.[16] ESPN also chose Darden as a member of the All-Time University of Michigan Football team.[17]

Pro football

Darden was drafted in the first round (18th overall) in the 1972 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns.[18] Darden started at strong safety in his rookie season of 1972 and played the remainder of his career at free safety until he retired after his tenth and final season, where he only started 10 games. Autry Beamon and Lawrence Johnson filled in for the injured Darden in his final season (1981). Clinton Burrell, who won a starting cornerback position in 1980, only played 2 games in 1981. Rookie Hanford Dixon started at cornerback in place of the injured Burrell. After Darden's retirement, the Browns moved Clinton Burrell to strong safety and Clarence Scott to free safety. Darden was selected as an All-Pro safety in 1976, 1978, and 1979,[1][2][3] and went to the Pro Bowl in 1978.[4]

According to Dave Logan, Darden and head coach Forrest Gregg once had a fist fight after a game.[19] Darden has explained that the 1977 Cleveland Browns did not respond to Gregg's coaching style, which contributed to his firing with one game remaining.[20]

When Cleveland played its season finale against the 1980 Bengals and their former head coach Gregg in the annual rivalry game, Darden used a forearm tackle to the face of Pat McInally.[21] McInally was unconscious for about 10 minutes and left the field on a stretcher, but he returned in the second half to make a game-tying touchdown.[22] Art McNally, NFL Supervisor of Officials reviewed game film and ruled that the hit was "unnecessarily rough" resulting in NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle levying a $1000 ($3351 in 2023) fine on Darden.[23] The hit and McInally's recovery are a legendary part of the intrastate rivalry.[24]

Over the course of his career he handled 45 punt returns for 285 return yards.[25] Darden holds Cleveland Browns franchise records with 45 career interceptions, 10 single-season interceptions and 820 interception return yards.[26] Two of Darden's Browns teams went to the playoffs. His rookie year, the 10–4 1972 Browns went to the 1972-73 NFL playoffs under head coach Nick Skorich, but lost in the first round to the Miami Dolphins 20–14.[27] The 11–5 1980 Browns went to the 1980-81 NFL playoffs under head coach Sam Rutigliano, but lost in the first round to the Oakland Raiders 14–12.[28]

Darden was ranked 47th on the Cleveland Browns top 100 players list.[29]

Post football

In 1985, government informant, David Rice, testified in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court that Darden was listed as a suspected dealer of cocaine in a document that he had been given by the Federal Bureau of Investigation while he was being wired with a hidden microphone. Darden was vociferous in his denial of the claim.[30][31][32]

Darden has served as a professional sports agent and represented Tony Boles. In 1990, he invested $25,000 in Boles by hosting him in Cleveland, Ohio and working him out with athletic trainers.[33] At the time he was Cleveland-based sports agent.[34] During Darden's career as an agent he represented an assortment of NFL and National Basketball Association players and prospects including Felix Wright and Chris Calloway.[35][36][37][38] He was a supporter of Maurice Clarett's attempt to challenge the NFL Draft's eligibility rules.[39] In 1998, when the NFL reissued a franchise in Cleveland, Darden was part of one of the six bidding groups.[40] In 1999, he owned a security company in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.[41] As of 2006, Darden was a business consultant living in Cedar Rapids.[42]

Notes

  1. ^ a b "1976 NFL All-Pros". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Sports Reference, LLC. Retrieved February 29, 2008.
  2. ^ a b "1978 NFL All-Pros". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Sports Reference, LLC. Retrieved February 29, 2008.
  3. ^ a b "1979 NFL All-Pros". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Sports Reference, LLC. Retrieved February 29, 2008.
  4. ^ a b "1978 NFL Pro Bowlers". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Sports Reference, LLC. Retrieved February 29, 2008.
  5. ^ "Thom Darden". databaseFootball.com. databaseSports.com. Archived from the original on February 7, 2007. Retrieved March 4, 2008.
  6. ^ "From The Blade Archives". The Blade. Newsbank. March 21, 2008. Retrieved February 1, 2009.
  7. ^ a b "University of Michigan Football All-American: Thom Darden". The Regents of the University of Michigan. January 10, 2007. Retrieved February 29, 2008.
  8. ^ a b "1971 Football Team". The Regents of the University of Michigan. March 31, 2007. Retrieved February 29, 2008.
  9. ^ "1970 Football Team". The Regents of the University of Michigan. March 31, 2007. Retrieved February 29, 2008.
  10. ^ "1969 Football Team". The Regents of the University of Michigan. March 31, 2007. Retrieved February 29, 2008.
  11. ^ "'My entire focus was to beat Ohio State'". The Detroit News. Newsbank. November 12, 2007. Retrieved February 1, 2009.
  12. ^ Maisel, Ivan. "#58 Over and out". ESPN. Retrieved February 29, 2008.
  13. ^ "Recipe for Success". National Football League. Archived from the original on April 26, 2007. Retrieved March 4, 2008.
  14. ^ Stein, Ray (November 17, 2007). "After the fall". The Columbus Dispatch. Newsbank. Retrieved February 1, 2009.
  15. ^ Phillips, Larry (November 15, 2007). "Key OSU-Michigan games sprinkled through every decade". The News Journal. Newsbank. Retrieved February 1, 2009.
  16. ^ "Versus Ohio State November 20, 1971". Regents of the University of Michigan. 2003. Archived from the original on February 9, 2012. Retrieved February 29, 2008.
  17. ^ Neumann, Thomas (November 16, 2006). "Blue State/Red State". ESPN Internet Ventures. Retrieved February 29, 2008.
  18. ^ "History (1972 Draft first round)". NFL.com. NFL Enterprises LLC. Retrieved February 29, 2008.
  19. ^ McClelland, Sean (October 16, 2000). "BROWNS NOTEBOOK; SILVER LINING: JOHNSON AWAKENS DURING DRUBBING: [CITY Edition]". Dayton Daily News. p. 5D. ProQuest 254351431. Retrieved April 8, 2024. Logan, who broke in with the Browns in 1976, said one of his lasting memories involves a postgame fistfight between his first head coach, Forrest Gregg, and safety Thom Darden.
  20. ^ Butler, Jason (August 25, 1999). "IN GREGG'S CASE, THE SPY CAME IN FROM THE HALL - BROWNS COACH UNCOVERS MODELL'S AGENT, THEN IS FIRED". Akron Beacon Journal. p. C1. Retrieved April 8, 2024. As the season went on, the team didn't respond well to the way Gregg pushed. Cliques formed, as players' differences polarized the locker room and broke down the team chemistry. "It was tough going to practice," said defensive back Thom Darden. "It was not a good working environment. You could cut the tension with a knife when we were in practice."
  21. ^ Anderson, Dave (December 22, 1980). "The Cardiac Champions". The New York Times. p. C.1. ProQuest 424024679. Retrieved April 6, 2024.
  22. ^ Schneider, Russell (December 22, 1980). "Field goal puts Browns in playoffs Browns 27, Cincinnati Bengals 24 Riverfront Stadium, Cincinnati". The Plain Dealer. p. BB. Retrieved April 8, 2024.
  23. ^ "SPORTS LOG; NAMES: DARDEN FACES FINE: [FIRST Edition]". Boston Globe. January 12, 1981. p. 1. ProQuest 294044833. Retrieved April 8, 2024.
  24. ^ Ludwig, Chick (October 11, 2001). "MCINALLY'S KNOCKOUT, COMEBACK PART OF LORE: [CITY Edition]". Dayton Daily News. p. 1D. ProQuest 254442120. Retrieved April 8, 2024.
  25. ^ "All-Time Players: Thom Darden (more)". NFL.com. NFL Enterprises LLC. Retrieved February 29, 2008.
  26. ^ "Cleveland Browns 2007 Media Guide" (PDF). Cleveland Browns. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 28, 2008. Retrieved February 29, 2008.
  27. ^ "1972 Cleveland Browns". databaseFootball.com. databaseSports.com. Archived from the original on April 10, 2007. Retrieved February 29, 2008.
  28. ^ "1980 Cleveland Browns". databaseFootball.com. databaseSports.com. Archived from the original on February 25, 2008. Retrieved February 29, 2008.
  29. ^ "Cleveland Browns' 100 best all-time players: No. 47, Thom Darden". Cleveland.com. January 21, 2013. Retrieved January 11, 2014.
  30. ^ "FREE-AGENT LIST AT 29 AS BOCHTE, YEAGER FILE". Philadelphia Inquirer. November 1, 1985. p. C.4. ProQuest 1827416971. Retrieved April 6, 2024.
  31. ^ Reinmuth, Gary (November 2, 1985). "USFL SHRINKS; CHICAGO OUT?: [NATIONAL, C Edition]". Chicago Tribune. p. 2. ProQuest 290879985. Retrieved April 6, 2024.
  32. ^ "CLEVELAND BROWNS: [3 STAR Edition]". Orlando Sentinel. November 2, 1985. p. C.6. ProQuest 276712494. Retrieved April 6, 2024.
  33. ^ Heuser, John (May 7, 2006). "Boles battles beast on his back - Ex-U-M tailback seeks to rebuild his life after years of addiction". Ann Arbor News. Newsbank. Retrieved February 1, 2009.
  34. ^ "Agents hit scouting combine tryouts". Houston Chronicle. Newsbank. February 9, 1991. Retrieved February 1, 2009.
  35. ^ "Raiders Sign Craign To Have 'Bo Insurance'". The Cincinnati Post. Newsbank. April 2, 1991. Retrieved February 1, 2009.
  36. ^ Hubbard, Steve (July 12, 1992). "Steelers Showing Heels To NFL In Draft Signing". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Newsbank. Retrieved February 1, 2009.
  37. ^ "Suber Out For Pro Career \ IUP Sophomore Running Back From Norristown Quits School". Philadelphia Daily News. Newsbank. March 21, 1997. Retrieved February 1, 2009.
  38. ^ Schmaltz, Brad (June 23, 1991). "NBA Casting An Eye At Bradley - Otterbein Star Opened Some Eyes At Recent pre-Draft Camp". The Columbus Dispatch. Newsbank. Retrieved February 1, 2009.
  39. ^ Ridenour, Marla (December 28, 2002). "Clarett's Challenges - OSU Freshman Wants National title, Not NFL". Akron Beacon Journal. Newsbank. Retrieved February 1, 2009.
  40. ^ Forbes, Gordon (March 24, 1998). "New Browns to cost owner a lot of green". USA Today. Newsbank. Retrieved February 1, 2009.
  41. ^ "Fry: 'Nothing phony' about Michigan's Schembechler". The Gazette. Newsbank. November 18, 2006. Retrieved February 1, 2009.
  42. ^ Price, Mark J. (December 19, 1999). "Kardiac Christmas". Akron Beacon Journal. Newsbank. Retrieved February 1, 2009.

External links

  • v
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  • e
Cleveland Browns 1972 NFL draft selections
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