Frank Ryan wasn’t your typical NFL quarterback.

While his powerful arm contributed to the Cleveland Browns’ championship, it was his intellectual pursuits off the field that set him apart.

Ryan, who led the Browns to their last NFL title in 1964 and pursued a doctorate in mathematics during his offseasons, passed away on Monday at the age of 87. His family announced his death, revealing that he had been battling Alzheimer’s disease, with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) suspected to have played a role in the progression of the illness. Ryan had donated his brain to Boston University’s CTE Center for research.

In a social media post, the Browns expressed condolences, acknowledging the loss of a football icon and championship-winning quarterback.

In the 1964 title game, Ryan astounded by throwing three touchdown passes to wide receiver Gary Collins, leading the Browns to a stunning 27-0 victory over the heavily favored Baltimore Colts and Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas on December 27. Despite this historic win, Cleveland has not secured a football championship since, making it one of four teams never to reach the Super Bowl.

In addition to his accomplishments on the field, Ryan obtained his Ph.D. from Rice just months after winning the ’64 title. He played college football in his home state of Texas. Ryan went on to teach mathematics at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, as well as Yale and Rice. Notably, he contributed to the creation of an electronic voting system that modernized the U.S. House of Representatives.

A three-time Pro Bowler with the Browns, Ryan spent seven seasons in Cleveland, boasting a 52-22-2 record as a starter. He led the league in passing touchdowns in 1964 and 1966. Although the Browns heavily relied on their ground game, featuring Hall of Fame running backs Jim Brown and Leroy Kelly, Ryan was a top-notch passer, throwing at least 25 TD passes in three seasons. His career also included stints with the Los Angeles Rams and Washington, concluding after the 1970 season.

Ryan served as the athletic director at Yale for 10 years. Over his 13-year playing career, he amassed 16,042 passing yards and 149 touchdowns, posting a 57-27-3 record as a starter.

Survived by his wife, Joan, who celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary last year, funeral and memorial arrangements for Ryan were still being finalized.

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