Landerhaven was transformed into Browns Town on August 18 as the 1980 Kardiac Kids took the stage. Coach Sam Rutigliano and players Greg Pruitt, Mike Pruitt and Don Cockroft were led in discussion by Chanel 3's Dave Chudowsky.
Moderator Dave Chodowsky, Coach Sam Rutigliano, Greg Pruitt,
Don Cockroft and Mike Pruitt
The event was part of the Summer Sports Series at Landerhaven and Browns fans poured in to hear about that memorable season.
Sam Rutigliano felt the team was special that season because of the leadership of Brian Sipe. "Football is a quarterback driven sport." He noted that it was important to Sipe that everyone played to their potential and he was happy for them when they did well. His next line "Hear that Lebron James?" received a rousing round of applause.
All of the team members loved the fans. They were amazed that people never left their seats for the entire season. When the Kardiac Kids were off the field, the fans would go home - but not before. As Greg Pruitt said "The team and the entire city were like family."
As the Coach puts it "Chicago, New York, LA - they're all about television, but in Cleveland the city and the fans are #1. No franchise in the history of the NFL has better fans. There are 98,00 Browns backers around the world." He says he gets a call from Guam twice a year for an update on the team.
Mike Pruitt says today, over thirty years later, people still come up to him and sing the song written about them. "We felt like rock stars. When we came back from the Cincy game there were 20,000 screaming fans at the airport. That's an amazing feeling."
Greg Pruitt remembers his first Steelers game. He says he knew there was a rivalry, but had no idea the intensity. "If they said it was like Oklahoma and Texas I would have understood. This was still more than that!"
He played in that game, and in fact, was responsible for the winning play. He remembers being so proud and "maybe a bit cocky" about it. All of a sudden, the fans rushed the field. "They were patting me on the helmet. One or two people doing that is cool. 10,000 is a beat down." So he ran off to the locker room for safety. Little did he know that when he ran into the locker room all excited that he as the one responsible for beating the Steelers - he was actually in the Steelers locker room and needed security to escort him out.
He also remembers the Kansas City game where he was ejected for fighting with KC's best defensive back. Both players were ejected and the Browns went on to win. Greg remembers trying to convince Coach Rutigliano that the Browns should pay his fine since he had strategically had their best player removed. Of course, the coach told him to pay his own fine.
Sam Rutigliano had the utmost respect for Blanton Collier. Before the Cincinnati game that year, Collier told him "I'll be in your back pocket if you need me." They won the game and the first congratulatory call he received was from Collier.
Of course there can't be a discussion of the 1980 season without Red Right 88. It was January 4, 1981 and the wind chill factor at Municipal Stadium was minus 36 degrees. Mike Pruitt recalls his amazement that not only were 80,000 people there - they were there with their children. "Nobody moved. It was so cold we couldn't even wear spikes because the ground was frozen and couldn't be penetrated and here were little kids cheering us on."
Greg was sitting on the sidelines trying to get warm. He had his back to the field because that was the only way to reach the heater to warm your toes. He saw his fellow team mates looking in shock at the field so he turned around just as Brian Sipe began his pass. The sideline, in unison and in what seemed like slow motion screamed "Don't throw that ball." But of course, he did. It was intercepted and the Browns lost.
According to the Coach the plan was simple. It was second down. Sipe would throw and even if it was incomplete the clock would stop. On third down they would run the ball and fourth kick the field goal. With the weather being so bad, they wanted to give Cockroft as much help as possible before he had to kick a frozen ball. Cockroft never got that chance although he says he's kicked that ball in his mind and dreams thousands of times and makes it each time.
Rutigliano said given the same conditions, he probably would do the same thing again.
Kardiac Kids memorabilia was part of the raffle
The all agreed the biggest change in the game since 1980 is money. Rutigliano remembers Coach Butch Davis asking him what he thought changed the most. His answer was "You make $2,925,000 more than I did."
Landerhaven was decorated in a Brown and Orange football theme and service staff roamed the packed house as stadium vendors with cool dessert treats after the meal.
Coach Rutigliano, in answer to an audience question, talked a bit about Lyle Alzado. He says they were naïve to drugs and steroids back then and he believes if they knew about Lyle's problems they could have helped him. He says on his death bed he tried to help people by telling them what was going on - but nobody believed him.
Coach Sam Rutigliano
Dave Chudowsky asked who, other than those on the dais and Brian Sipe, did the players look up to and feel inspired by. Don Cockroft, without hesitation, answered Henry Bradley. He said probably most of us would not remember the name. He was a defensive tackle. In one game he remembers the Browns trailing badly. With the clock running down, their opponent scored - again - and the game was all but over. The Browns left the field but were called back by the referee so the extra point could be kicked.
The Defense lined up and Henry Bradley was in the middle of the line. Not willing to give up or admit defeat, he blocked the kick. Nobody could believe it. He played just as hard in those last insignificant seconds as he would any other time. Cockroft remembers the entire team being inspired and very impressed.
Another "must-ask" question in a discussion like this concerns Art Modell. Cockcroft never really got along with him, but says Modell and his wife were very good to a lot of people and he believes it is time to forgive him.
Sam Rutigliano says he prays for Modell's wife every day because she is gravely ill. But he also says "I've been married for 57 years. Divorce was never an option. Murder, yes, divorce no. The Browns leaving was like me coming home and finding a note from my wife that she was divorcing me."
Mike Pruitt said Modell always treated him with respect and although he was certainly upset about the move he will not talk bad about him.
Running Back Mike Pruitt
And Greg Pruitt said Art followed his collegiate career. His coach at Oklahoma went to the New England Patriots and everyone thought Greg would go there. The Patriots had three first round draft picks. But Model wanted Greg Pruitt and worked his magic to make it happen. "I'm where I am today because of Art Modell."
Running Back Greg Pruitt
Sam Rutigliano has no doubt Colt McCoy can lead the Browns to greatness and we all hope he's right. Seeing the Kardiac Kids and listening to them describe those glory years it is hard not to get excited about the upcoming season. These are Cleveland/NEO guys. They live and work here and they cheer for the Browns like every other fan.
The fans in the audience all had their memories - and, as you can see from their smiling faces in the photos below, are ready to make more.
Pat Hylkema with Browns Mascot Chomps
Marty Goren, Bill Mitchner and Buddy Klein
Les Levine and Kevin Gladstone
Darrick and Hillary Moore
Carl Gulla, Barbara Sirna and Harlan Diamond
Tom Bahle and Al and Hal Sikua
Dan McVey and Andy Muran
Debbie Hanson and Chomps
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