March 15, 2016

Highlighted Year: Thom Darden, 1978

Safety, Cleveland Browns

Age: 28
7th season in pro football (6th active) & with Browns
College: Michigan
Height: 6’2”   Weight: 193

Darden played all of the positions in the defensive backfield during three varsity college seasons and he intercepted 11 passes, three of which were returned for touchdowns, the longest covering 92 yards. He received All-American recognition from four organizations as a senior and was chosen by the Browns in the first round of the 1972 NFL draft (18th overall). Darden moved directly into the starting lineup at strong safety and played well, intercepting three passes, as well as returning punts. He was shifted to free safety, where his speed could be better utilized, and intercepted 8 passes in 1974 in addition to returning a fumble for a TD. However, Darden missed the entire 1975 season due to a major knee injury suffered in the preseason that required surgery. He came back strong in ’76 to intercept 7 passes and had 6 in 1977, one of which he ran back for a score.

1978 Season Summary
Appeared in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Interceptions – 10 [1]
Most interceptions, game – 2 at Atlanta 9/17, at Pittsburgh 9/24, vs. Buffalo 10/29
Int. return yards – 200 [1]
Most int. return yards, game – 46 (on 2 int.) at Atlanta 9/17
Int. TDs – 0
Fumble recoveries – 2

Awards & Honors:
1st team All-NFL: PFWA, NEA, Pro Football Weekly
2nd team All-NFL: AP
1st team All-AFC: Pro Football Weekly, Sporting News
Pro Bowl

Browns went 8-8 to finish third in the AFC Central.  

Darden played another three seasons with the Browns, through 1981. Good in pass coverage, he was also capable against the run. He ended up intercepting 45 passes, making him Cleveland’s career leader, two of which he returned for touchdowns. He also returned 45 punts for a 6.3-yard average. His Pro Bowl selection in 1978 was the only one of his career, although he did receive second-team All-NFL honors from the Pro Football Writers in 1976 and the Associated Press in ’79.


Highlighted Years features players who were consensus first-team All-League* selections or league* or conference** leaders in the following statistical categories:

Rushing: Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Passing: Yards, Completion Pct., Yards per Attempt, TDs, Rating
Receiving: Catches, Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Scoring: TDs, Points, Field Goals (min. 5)
All-Purpose: Total Yards
Defense: Interceptions, Sacks
Kickoff Returns: Average
Punt Returns: Average
Punting: Average

*Leagues include NFL (1920 to date), AFL (1926), AFL (1936-37), AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974-75), USFL (1983-85)

**NFC/AFC since 1970