WEST WYOMING'S WARREN LAHR PLAYED IN 7 NFL TITLE GAMES
By JOHN ERZAR Times Leader Sports Writer
Sunday, November 07, 1999 Page: 1C
Warren Lahr never really captured his share of the glory.
A 1941 graduate of West Wyoming High School, Lahr was one of the valley's
top high school football players. But West Wyoming was just an average team,
and across the Susquehanna River, Pittston High's Charley Trippi was getting
The major colleges wanted Trippi, not Lahr, although some people believed
they were nearly equal in talent. While Trippi ended up at Georgia, Lahr,
thanks to the efforts of his coach, went to Western Reserve University in
He later played 12 years as a cornerback for the Cleveland Browns. During
that time, they played in seven NFL championship games, winning three. He was
so tough that opposing teams thought twice about throwing toward his side of
the field. But on a team with eight future hall of famers - Otto Graham, Lou
Groza and Marion Motley among them - Lahr was overshadowed.
Still, his accomplishments have earned him the No. 9 position on the
Wyoming Valley's 10 Greatest Athletes Of The Century. The list was selected by
The Times Leader sports staff from nominations made by the paper's writers and
``He got overshadowed with a lot of it,'' said Walt Michaels, a
Swoyersville native and former Browns linebacker who played with Lahr for
eight years. ``If you were with the Giants you were noticed quicker or
mentioned quicker, like Emlen Tunnell and some others. But Warnie could stay
on the field with any of those guys.''
Lahr, who died in 1969 at 45, had the numbers to prove it.
His 40 NFL career interceptions were a Browns' record when he retired in
1959 and are second on the Browns all-time list.
His five interception returns for touchdowns are a Browns record and 10th
best in NFL history.
He is the only Brown ever to twice return two interceptions for touchdowns
in a season. His four playoff interceptions are also a Browns' record shared
with three other players. And his 530 interception return yards ranks fourth
on the Browns' all-time list.
``You invite passes,'' Lahr told The Philadelphia Inquirer in 1950. ``It's
funny. When you first start to play defense you hope they won't throw. Then
after you play a while, you're afraid they won't.''
Running to Lahr's side was also a tough task for opposing offenses.
``He was just a plain good tackler,'' Michaels said. ``He didn't punish
you, he didn't come up and kill you, but he didn't miss you.''
Yet Lahr never bragged.
``Warren was a very humble guy,'' said Larh's sister, Amanda Colechio of
West Pittston. ``He never talked about it unless you asked him a question. He
was very humble and never forgot about his friends back home.''
Lahr didn't appear headed for a professional career. The Steelers picked
him in the 30th round, the 294th of 300 players chosen.
Instead, Lahr joined the Cleveland Browns and coach Paul Brown in the
3-year-old All-American Football Conference. After missing his first season
with an injury, Lahr saw action at a halfback and cornerback on the 1949 AAFC
championship team, intercepting four passes.
In the Browns first year in the NFL in 1950, Lahr intercepted eight passes
and returned two for touchdowns, but his biggest contribution might have been
in the title game against the Los Angeles Rams.
Trailing 28-20 late in the third period, Lahr intercepted a pass to kill a
Rams' drive and set up a Browns touchdown.
The Browns took a 30-28 lead with 28 seconds left, but the Rams had a final
chance. Rams quarterback Norm Van Brocklin went after Lahr by throwing a
desperation pass to former Heisman Trophy winner Glenn Davis.
With both players heading for the end zone, Lahr and Davis wrestled for
control of the ball.
``They got into the end zone and Davis threw him down,'' recalled Browns
quarterback Otto Graham in the book ``The Golden Age of Pro Football.''
``What if the referee signaled a safety? It wasn't because the momentum and
Davis had carried Lahr in there, but I've seen crazier calls.''
Michaels recalled another big interception.
``He intercepted a pass against the Redskins in a nip-and-tuck game,''
Michaels said. ``There's Warnie, he slipped and was on his back. Nobody got to
him in time, he got up off his back and ran 30 yards for a touchdown.''
Lahr retired in 1959. He remained in Cleveland, and worked as a
manufacturer's agent in industrial sales. He was also a color commentator for
On Jan. 19, 1969, just days after passing a physical, Lahr died of an
apparent heart attack.
``Warnie played mostly man-to-man coverage,'' Michaels said. ``If you can
play that much man-to-man coverage and they know you're going to do it and you
don't get beat often, then he has to go down as one of the better ones.''