Don Fleming (American football)

For the musician, see Don Fleming (musician).
Don Fleming

Posed color photo of Don Fleming in three-point stance, wearing brown, black and white uniform of the Cleveland Browns, with helmet off.

Fleming circa 1962
No. 46
Position: Safety
Personal information
Date of birth: (1937-06-11)June 11, 1937
Place of birth: Bellaire, Ohio
Date of death: June 4, 1963(1963-06-04) (aged 25)
Place of death: Winter Park, Florida
Height: 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)
Weight: 188 lb (85 kg)
Career information
High school: Shadyside (OH)
College: Florida
NFL Draft: 1959 / Round: 28 / Pick: 327
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics as of 1962
Games played: 38
Interceptions: 10
Interception return yards: 160
Fumbles recovered: 4
Player stats at
Player stats at PFR

Donald Denver Fleming (June 11, 1937 – June 4, 1963) was an American college and professional football player who was a defensive back in the National Football League (NFL) for three seasons during the early 1960s. Fleming played college football for the University of Florida, and thereafter, he played professionally for the Cleveland Browns of the NFL. His professional football career was cut short by his accidental death in 1963.

Early life

Fleming was born in Bellaire, Ohio in 1937.[1] He attended Shadyside High School in Shadyside, Ohio,[2] where he was a standout prep player for the Shadyside Tigers high school football team.

College career

Fleming attended the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, where he played for coach Bob Woodruff's Florida Gators football team from 1956 to 1958.[3] Fleming was the Gators' team captain in 1958, and he finished his college football career as a first-team All-Southeastern Conference (SEC) selection.[3] Woodruff ranked him as the Gators' best receiver of the 1950s.[4]

Fleming catching a touchdown pass at Florida.

The Chicago Cardinals drafted Fleming following his senior football season,[5] but he chose to remain in school and exhaust his remaining NCAA baseball eligibility playing for coach Dave Fuller's Florida Gators baseball team from 1958 to 1960. He was the captain of the Gators baseball team,[6] and led the Gators in home runs and stolen bases.[7]

Professional career

Fleming was selected by the Chicago Cardinals in the twenty-eighth round (327th pick overall) of the 1959 NFL Draft,[5] but he remained at the University of Florida and did not play during the 1959 NFL season. He successfully urged Chicago management to trade him to the Cleveland Browns before the start of the 1960 season. Fleming was a close friend of another Browns defensive back, Bernie Parrish, a fellow Florida graduate, and the two were said to be almost inseparable during the NFL season. Over the following three years, Fleming played regularly at safety, intercepted ten passes,[1] recovered four fumbles, and made The Sporting News All-NFL team in 1962.[8]

Accidental death and legacy

Fleming, his wife Rosalie and their son Ty lived in his hometown of Shadyside, Ohio during football season, and in Winter Park, Florida during the NFL off-season.[9] As a 25-year-old NFL All-Conference selection, Fleming was already planning for when his professional football career ended.[10] He had majored in building construction at the University of Florida, and had been working as a foreman for a Central Florida construction company during the off-season to stay in shape and gain industry experience.[10] On June 4, 1963, Fleming and a co-worker, Walter Smith, were operating a crane on a construction site west of Orlando, Florida, when the boom of the crane brushed an overhead 12,000-volt high-tension electrical transmission line.[11] Fleming and Smith were electrocuted, and attempts to revive them at the hospital failed.[11]

Earlier the same day, the Browns had announced that Fleming had signed his contract for the 1963 season.[9] His death came only seventeen days after that of Ernie Davis,[12] the overall No. 1 pick in the 1962 NFL Draft, whom the Browns had acquired in a trade. The Browns retired both Davis' uniform number No. 45 and Fleming's No. 46 in memory of the players. Fleming Field at Shadyside High School, Fleming's alma mater, is named in his memory. When the Browns practiced at Western Reserve Eclectic Institute (Hiram College), the field house they used also carried Fleming's name.

Fleming was nominated for the Florida Sports Hall of Fame within days of his death,[13] and he was later inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame as a "Gator Great."[14]

See also


  1. 1 2 National Football League, Historical Players, Don Fleming. Retrieved June 2, 2010.
  2., Players, Don Fleming. Retrieved June 2, 2010.
  3. 1 2 2011 Florida Gators Football Media Guide, University Athletic Association, Gainesville, Florida, pp. 96, 124, 181 (2011). Retrieved August 28, 2011.
  4. Tom McEwen, The Gators: A Story of Florida Football, The Strode Publishers, Huntsville, Alabama, pp. 210–211 (1974).
  5. 1 2 Pro Football Hall of Fame, Draft History, 1959 National Football League Draft. Retrieved June 2, 2010.
  6. Robert Green, "Fleming Draws High Praise From Friends," St. Petersburg Times, p. 3-C (June 6, 1963). Retrieved June 23, 2010.
  7. 2009 Florida Gators Baseball Media Guide, Records Book, University Athletic Association, Gainesville, Florida, p. 131 (2009). Retrieved June 23, 2010.
  8., Players, Don Fleming. Retrieved June 23, 2010.
  9. 1 2 Associated Press, "Ex-UF Gridder Fleming Is Killed," Daytona Beach Morning Journal, p. 15 (June 5, 1963). Retrieved June 23, 2010.
  10. 1 2 Jimmy Mann, "Don Fleming: Real Pro," St. Petersburg Times, p. 1-C (June 5, 1963). Retrieved June 23, 2010.
  11. 1 2 United Press International, "Former Gator Star Is Killed," St. Petersburg Times, p. 1-C (June 5, 1963). Retrieved June 22, 2010.
  12. United Press International, "Safetyman Fleming of Browns Killed," Lodi News-Sentinel, p. 7 (June 5, 1963). retrieved June 23, 2010.
  13. Associated Press, "Don Fleming is 'Nominated'," The Miami News, p. 4B (June 14, 1963). Retrieved June 23, 2010.
  14. F Club, Hall of Fame, Gator Greats. Retrieved December 14, 2014.


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