CLEVELAND (AP) — Frank Ryan, who served as Yale’s athletics director for a decade, wasn’t your average NFL quarterback.
His arm helped make the Cleveland Browns champions. His intellect earned him wider acclaim off the field.
Ryan, who led the the Browns to their last NFL title in 1964 while spending his offseasons getting a doctorate diploma in mathematics, died on Monday. He was 87.
The team said Ryan died while being cared for at a nursing home in Connecticut. There was no immediate cause of death given, but Ryan’s son, Frank Ryan Jr., told Cleveland.com that his father had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
In the 1964 title game, Ryan threw three touchdown passes to wide receiver Gary Collins as the Browns shocked Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas and the heavily favored Baltimore Colts 27-0 on Dec. 27. Cleveland hasn’t won a football championship since and remains one of four teams never to make the Super Bowl.
However, with Ryan and Hall of Fame running backs Jim Brown and Leroy Kelly, the Browns were a perennial power in the early to mid-1960s.
Just months after winning the ’64 title — the last for any of the city’s three major professional teams for 52 years until the Cavaliers won the NBA crown in 2016 — Ryan got his Ph.D. from Rice, where he played college ball in his home state of Texas.
He went on to teach math at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland and later at Yale and Rice. Ryan is also credited with helping create an electronic voting system that modernized the U.S. House of Representatives.
A three-time Pro Bowler with the Browns, Ryan spent seven seasons with Cleveland, compiling a 52-22-2 record as a starter. He led the league in passing touchdowns in 1964 and 1966.
Although Cleveland rode the great Brown and later Kelly on the ground to many wins, Ryan was one of the league’s top passers and threw at least 25 TD passes in three seasons. He also played for the Los Angeles Rams and Washington Redskins before retiring after the 1970 season.
Ryan also served for 10 years as athletic director at Yale.
During his 13-year playing career, Ryan passed for 16,042 yards and 149 TDs while going 57-27-3 as a starter.