Former Falcon Sievert was NFL draft choice 50 years ago
Dick Sievert went to the Cleveland Browns training camp in 1968. Unfortunately, a knee injury shot down his hopes of making the Browns' roster.
Sievert was one of the best linemen in the history of UW-River Falls football. After being an honorable mention NAIA All-American in 1967, Sievert was the 16th round draft choice of the Cleveland Browns in the 1968 National Football League draft.
Sievert and his wife, Sandy, lived in New Richmond. He died in 1997 following a heart attack. He was 51.
Sievert was listed at 6 foot, 5 inches and 240 pounds, when selected by the Browns. UW-River Falls coach Gwynn Christensen groomed Sievert to play on both sides of the ball, so he would be more appealing to an NFL team. He was being viewed as an offensive tackle or defensive end. Sandy Sievert credited Christensen for getting Sievert recognized by NFL teams.
"Gwynn really got in there and fought for him," she said.
The one thing that ultimately worked against Sievert was a knee injury suffered in the final game of the 1967 season. Sandy recalled that the opposing team triple-teamed Dick on a play early in the second half. Dick suffered a catastrophic knee injury on the play.
Christensen arranged to have Dick seen by the Minnesota Vikings team doctor. Instead of recommending surgery, the doctor suggested that Dick wait. Sievert was drafted in February 1968 and attended rookie camps in Cleveland in May. The Browns were known as an exceptionally thorough team then. The rookies went through a battery of physical tests and extensively studied the Browns' playbook so they'd be up to speed when the Browns opened camp that July.
Sandy said Dick was proud to say that he beat Marvin Upshaw, the Browns first round draft choice that season, in a backwards 40-yard dash. That was one of the numerous physical tests the rookies underwent in their camp.
The injured knee stood up during that camp. But that June, Sievert stepped wrong and the knee buckled. Sandy recalled that surgery was performed, removing all the ligaments and cartilage from his knee. Six weeks after the surgery, Dick drove to training camp in Cleveland, his knee still heavily bandaged. The Browns sent Dick home, telling him to get the knee healthy and to come back the following year. The Browns finished 10-4 that season, reaching the NFL championship game.
Next season never came for Sievert. He didn't have access to equipment to rehabilitate the knee. Instead, he began a career at Anchor Block in North St. Paul.
"He went from the bottom to research and development," Sandy said proudly. She showed patents Dick earned for his retaining block systems that are now used in many of the retaining walls in the area.
When Sievert signed with the Browns, he received a signing bonus of $1,500. His salary for his rookie season was $15,000. Sandy said he had no regrets over how his career ended.
"He walked away. He was disappointed, but he was happy he had the opportunity," she said.
There hasn't been another UW-River Falls player selected for the NFL Draft since Sievert was selected in 1968. There were top quality players being found in the 16th round of the NFL Draft back then. The player selected before Sievert with the 428th pick was Larry Cole, who started in four Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys. Also taken in that round by the Pittsburgh Steelers was Rocky Bleier, who played on four Super Bowl champion teams.
Sievert was elected to the UW-River Falls Athletic Hall of Fame in 1983. Sievert was a three-time All-Wisconsin State University Conference selection and he was the Falcons' Most Valuable Player in 1967. He was voted Wisconsin's Best Lineman that year by United Press International.
Sievert was born in New Richmond, where his family farmed. Later, his family purchased a farm and Dick graduated from Osceola High School. He was a standout in football, basketball and track. The shot put and discus throw records he set stood at OHS for decades.
Sievert and his wife moved to New Richmond right out of college after Sandy was hired as a physical education teacher in New Richmond. Sandy still lives in New Richmond after retiring as a teacher.