MOUNT VERNON — The usual crowd at Monday’s Kiwanis luncheon was clad in an unusual amount of orange and brown.
Don Cockroft, former NFL placekicker and punter, was in Mount Vernon to promote his book on the 1980 Cleveland Browns.
Cockroft’s book “The Kardiac Kids: Our Untold Stories” was on display at the Dan Emmett Conference Center.
During the luncheon, Cockroft told stories of his 13-year NFL career, all of which were played in Cleveland. Those stories included those from the 1980 season that ended in a memorable — though some would call forgettable — play late in the fourth quarter.
“Red Right 88,” recalled Cockroft to the crowd of over 100. Then, as if to try to skip telling the tale for the 1,000th time, he said, “Read the book.”
Cockroft’s book is a 672-page hardcover coffee-table style compilation of stories, testimonials and photos of the 1980 Cleveland Browns season. The Browns was known as “The Kardiac Kids” for their penchant for winning — and losing — games in the final minutes. Cleveland won the AFC Central Division that year, but lost to the Oakland Raiders in the Divisional Playoff. The book goes week-by-week, detailing each game from the perspectives of the players and fans.
The original plan for the book, according to Cockroft, was a then-and-now look at the players and coaches from that team. Cockroft spoke to 57 players and coaches and accumulated over 140 hours of recordings.
Somehow, he had to narrow that down to 672 pages.
“I originally thought it would be 250 pages, 300 at the most,” said Cockroft. “Each story was no shorter than 2,000 words. I sent them to my editor, Bob Moon, and he said, ‘They’re great, but you’re leaving stuff out.’”
As any Browns fan would expect, the book delves into the famous Red Right 88 play as well. It stems from the playoff game, which was played on a frigid day in Cleveland with the wind chill well below minus-30. The Raiders led, 14-12, but the Browns drove to the Oakland 12 yard line with under a minute to play. Rather than run up the middle and call for Cockroft to kick a game-winning field goal, quarterback Brian Sipe threw the ball — the Red Right 88 play — and was intercepted by Oakland’s Mike Davis.
Cockroft, who was released during training camp that following season, said it’s unfair to sum up the entire season on one play.
“There were 77,655 fans at that miserable game,” recalled Cockroft, “and there was absolute silence. … That season was so special. That wasn’t the defining moment of the season.