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February 27, 2014

Former Lincoln student rises to fame with Cleveland Browns

CHICKASHA —

Somewhere in the veins of Chickasha sports runs the blood of a professional champion.

He didn't graduate from the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, nor did he graduate from Chickasha High School. Maurice "Bolo" Bassett was considered one of the finest halfbacks to play football at Lincoln High School, when he lined up for the Lions in the late 1940s. It led him to one of the most storied teams in professional football, the Cleveland Browns.

Bassett became a central figure in football as early as 1948, when as a junior the game program showed him as a co-captain of the Lions' team. Little is known about just how good he was at Lincoln, aside from mentions in the Chickasha Daily Express. He is named as one of nine seniors ahead of the 1949 Homecoming game against Douglass, where a large crowd was expected to see what was considered a conference decider at Memorial Stadium.

His exploits for the Lions were good enough to garner the attention of Langston University, where he attended starting in 1950. While playing there, Browns scouts spotted him in the early 1950s. He was drafted in the third round, but it turned out to be a steal.

Bassett's rookie season was his best. Lining up at fullback, the 6' 1", 230-pound Chickasha man led the team in rushing with 558 yards in 12 games, good enough for fifth in the league. It was capped with the 1954 league championship, and Bassett stayed on to lift another trophy in 1955.

After his stint with the Browns, Bassett went on to play in the Canadian Football League before he ended his professional career with the Buffalo Bills in 1960. Overall, he racked up 891 yards off 223 yards per carry and 11 touchdowns. Although his career was brief and his playing time was sandwiched between the great fullbacks Marion Motley and Jim Brown, Bassett is quoted in a 1973 interview by a Langston University press release as saying, "I played on two world championship teams and they only played on one world championship team each."

But his name lives on. For his impressive rookie season at Cleveland, the team decided to give out a yearly honor, the Bassett Award. Even today, it is still handed out by the team to the top rookie in training camp every year.

Bassett passed away in 1989, aged 58. But his memory lives on thanks to some newspaper clippings and the impact he made as a professional on his first time trying.

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