Flashback 50: rookies Warfield, Kelly in the fold

By this date in 1964, the NFL draft was already old news, having been held on December 2, 1963. By January 14, two of the Browns’ key selections had already reportedly signed their rookie contracts.

Both Paul Warfield, the 11th overall pick, and Leroy Kelly, chosen in the eighth round (110th overall) would enjoy fantastic NFL careers that would earn them induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

While the exploits of these Browns legends are now well known to anyone with even a passing familiarity with the team’s history, back in 1964, even after inking their rookie deals, they were just two promising prospects trying to establish themselves. They weren’t set for life.

During their rookie training camp at remote Hiram College, they lacked even the cars or the cash to head into the nearest town, Garrettsville, in the evenings. They’d stay on the sleepy campus and end up tossing the Frisbee or playing Wiffle ball along with teenaged ballboys like Casey Coleman.

Warfield, the star Ohio State halfback and Warren native, was almost a no-brainer of a pick, and under the special tutelage of the retired “Rabbit” Ray Renfro, he made a quick and successful conversion to split end, leading the championship team in the major receiving categories.

Kelly, a pure halfback, was the proverbial diamond in the rough. Coming from Morgan State, a historically black college in Baltimore, he had starred on both offense and defense to more than earn his half-scholarship. Focusing on special teams as a Browns rookie in 1964, he earned $17,000, including his signing bonus, less than four times the average American wage.