Galen Fiss Born: July 10, 1931 (Johnson City, KS)
Graduated: Johnson City, 1948; University of Kansas, 1952
Deceased: July 17, 2006 (Overland Park, KS)
The path that brought Galen Fiss to the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame is one of the most interesting, and possibly most unlikely, stories not only of this year’s class, but possibly in the entirety of the organization’s history. How did a kid from a tiny town in southwest Kansas that originally played professional baseball become a Pro Bowl linebacker? It was quite a journey and today, Galen Fiss takes his place among the greatest athletes ever produced by the Sunflower State.
A native of Johnson City, Kansas, Fiss was a standout from an early age. It might not be hard to see why Fiss stood out in his graduating class of four people, but Fiss caught the eye of University of Kansas football coach Don Fambrough and became one of the legendary coach’s first recruits.
It was at KU that Fiss began the journey to the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame. In an era when the best athletes played multiple sports, Fiss was no exception. Fiss suited up for baseball, football, and track for the Jayhawks and was a teammate of Kansas Sports Hall of Fame inductees Charlie Hoag on the gridiron and Dean Smith on the diamond. In 1952, following his senior football season with the Jayhawks, Fiss earned first-team All-Big Seven conference honors as a fullback.
Fiss was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the thirteenth round of the 1953 NFL draft but wasn’t offered a contract right away which is where Fiss’s story gets interesting. Fiss was offered a contract with the Cleveland Indians which he signed and was shipped to the organization’s Class C affiliate, the Fargo-Moorhead Twins, in South Dakota. Fiss played in fifty-two games in the 1953 season alongside future Yankee great Roger Maris.
Following his lone professional baseball season, Fiss served two years in the Air Force. Upon his discharge from the service in 1956, Fiss signed with the Cleveland Browns, three years after he was officially drafted by the Browns.
Again, Fiss’s career brought him into contact with some legendary company, including playing for coach Paul Brown and he was a teammate of running back Jim Brown and Kansas Sports Hall of Fame inductee Mike McCormack.
Fiss immediately broke into the starting lineup as a linebacker for the Browns in 1956. He held the position for the next eleven years. Tacking statistics weren’t tracked during his career, but Fiss did total thirteen interceptions and eighteen fumble recoveries during his professional career.
He also anchored the defense on some of the greatest teams in NFL history. Fiss played in three NFL championship games in 1957, 1964, and 1965, including helping the Browns win the championship in 1964. He was named a two-time Pro Bowl selection in 1962 and 1963.
Fiss retired from playing professional football in 1966 and returned to his native Kansas, but he wouldn’t be completely out of athletics for long. Fiss served as president of the K-Club at the University of Kansas and served on the KU athletic board.
Although Fiss passed away in 2006, he has continued to gain honors for his accomplishments, like the one he receives today. In 2013, Fiss was inducted to the Cleveland Browns Legends and he is an inductee of the KU Booth Athletics Hall of Fame.
The story of Galen Fiss is truly remarkable. The kid from Johnson City, Kansas, who starred for the Jayhawks, played professional baseball then became an All-Pro linebacker. That is the stuff dreams are made of.