Teacher dons No. 13 jersey in honor of Frank Ryan

by Mike Lesko | reporter Published:

Aurora -- On Fridays during the school year at Leighton School fifth-grade math teacher Ted Linden can be seen wearing his Frank Ryan No. 13 Cleveland Browns jersey.

The brown uniform top with white lettering is similar to the one worn by Ryan, who quarterbacked the Browns to the 1964 NFL championship, the last title won by a major Cleveland pro sports team. (See column in next week's edition).

Ryan is Linden's favorite player, and both have something in common: both were college math teachers. Ryan is the only NFL quarterback who earned a college doctorate degree in mathematics.

"During the Browns' training camp, Frank taught math at Case Western Reserve in the morning and went to football practice in the afternoon," said Linden, who has taught math every other weekend for the last 22 years at Hiram College.

Each Friday, teachers at Leighton are permitted to wear jeans if they contribute $2 to a student scholarship fund that is part of the Aurora Education Association, of which Linden is president. Instead of jeans, Linden wears his Browns' jersey, uniform pants, orange knee socks and orange tennis shoes.

"I tell the students I'm getting ready for the game," Linden said with a smile.

Linden spotted the jersey on an Internet blog two summers ago. It was worn in the photo by a Wisconsin man.

"I SENT HIM an email and said I had been looking for years for a Frank Ryan jersey," Linden said. "He emailed back that he was a teacher, too, and a Green Bay Packers fan who collected jerseys from the 1960s. He emailed that if the jersey meant that much to me, he'd send it to me. He wrote, 'If you like it, send me $50. If you don't like it, send it back.'"

Linden was thrilled with the jersey and sent the cash.

Linden was in attendance at the Browns game in 2005 when Ryan and three other ex-Browns were inducted as members of the Browns Legends.

"Frank is a quiet, unassuming guy," said Linden, who grew up in Berea, where he played baseball at Lou Groza Field, named after the Browns' Hall-of Fame offensive tackle and place-kicker.

Interestingly, Linden's brother, Gary, then 11, was originally supposed to go with their father, Robert, to the 1964 NFL title game at Cleveland Municipal Stadium, where the Browns throttled the Baltimore Colts, 27-0. Robert had two tickets in the upper deck. Instead, Ted, then 7, went to the game in place of his brother, who got in trouble with their father prior to the game.

"We can't remember what my brother did to get our dad upset, but he did something. I never let my brother forget that I got to go to the game instead of him. I tell him, 'Thanks for making Dad mad,'" Ted said with a smile.

The late Robert Linden was "a huge Browns fan," Ted said. "It was really cold that day," Ted said. "I remember Dad took me to the restroom at half-time so we could stand under the heat lamps."

With the championship game scoreless at half-time, Ted and his father watched Ryan throw three second-half touchdown passes to receiver Gary Collins as the Browns won in a rout. The victory made an NFL champion out of the great Browns' fullback, Jim Brown.

DECADES after Ryan retired, Ted remains a loyal Browns fans.

Linden is in charge of the bike club at Leighton School, where he rides an orange and brown bicycle -- Browns' colors -- and wears a Browns bike helmet. This past fall, he and about 60 students rode their bicycles throughout the city on various outings.

When Linden's students do well on tests or celebrate birthdays, they get to watch a small dancing toy hamster and turtle in Browns' outfits perform in Linden's class.

A few years back, one of Linden's students was the grandson of the late Fritz Heisler, an assistant coach with the Browns when they were formed in 1946 who was a coach on the 1964 NFL championship team. The grandson gave Linden a 1969 Browns' team photo that Linden displays in his class room along with the two Sports Illustrated issues that featured Ryan on the cover plus other Browns' souvenirs.

The Linden family has six Browns season tickets. They are divided among Ted and his three brothers, twins Tom and David plus Gary, and Ted's sons, Tim and Andy, and their families.

"It brings us all together," Ted said. "There is a lot of camaraderie."

Email: mlesko@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4187

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