Jim Brown: football’s biggest icon

Quin Norris, Sports Editor

Being that this is the final issue of the month of February, I wanted to highlight one of the most influential African American athletes of all time in the NFL, which led to the greatest of all time Hall of Fame fullback Jim Brown being the subject of today’s look back. 

Brown’s early life began in St. Simmons Island, Ga on February 17, 1936. Born to his father Swinton Brown and mother Theresa Brown the young child spent most of his time in Georgia under the supervision of his grandmother. At the age of eight Brown and his family made a long-distance move taking the family to Manhasset, NY where his athletic prowess would be given a chance to shine. While at Manhasset Secondary School Brown would play a multitude of sports that included; football, baseball, lacrosse, track and basketball. Brown’s most notable achievement while at Manhasset came on the basketball court where he averaged 38 points per game for his team. 

When starting his college journey in 1953 Brown decided to stay in state and attended Syracuse University where he developed quite the resume for a sports star. When arriving to campus he continued his development as a multi-sport athlete continuing all his sports from high school other than baseball. In basketball Brown averaged 15 points a game in his sophomore year to lead the team in scoring and pulled an 11.3 points per game average in his junior year. On the track Brown’s most notable achievement was finishing in fifth place in the 1955 National Championship decathlon. Lacrosse was even more impressive for the multi-sport star as he had a second-team All-American nod in his junior season and a first-team All-American nod in his senior season off his 43 goals for in only 10 games which ranked him second on the National scale. However, despite all this Brown made his name on the football field where in his senior season he ran for 986 yards which put him in third place nationally despite having only played in eight games. During that season Brown had a game against Colgate where he rushed for 197 yards scoring 6 touchdowns and kicking seven extra points giving the young fullback a record of 43 points scored by an individual player in a game. This record still stands at Syracuse today. All this success in his senior season lead to Brown finishing fifth in Heisman voting. All this success that Brown had led to a giant banner of both Brown as a lacrosse and football star being hung in the Syracuse football stadium that simply says, “Greatest Player Ever” and I must say it is hard to disagree. 

Jim Brown finished his college career and declared for the 1957 NFL draft where he was selected sixth overall to the Cleveland Browns who had experienced some down years following the departure of former Hall of Fame quarterback Otto Graham. Not all was great for the back when he first showed up in Cleveland however as his head coach Paul Brown was still steadfast in wanting to run the offense that had won him seven league championships from 1946 to 1955. Brown quickly changed his coaches attack strategy in the ninth game of his rookie year where he ran for 237 yards against the Los Angeles Rams which was a then NFL record that stood for 14 years. The very next season the running back ran for 1,527 yards in only 12 games and rushed for 17 touchdowns in that same season. 

Brown would only play for nine seasons but by the time he was done he held the NFL records for; career rushing touchdowns (106), career total touchdowns (126), single-season rushing yards (1,863), career rushing yards (12,312) and all-purpose yards (15,549). 

Following his time as an athlete Brown began a career as an actor in Hollywood. Brown has acted in over 30 productions however his most notable achievements are lead roles in The Split, Riot and Kenner. However, the most important role Brown had was in 100 Rifles where he acted in one of Hollywood’s first interracial love scenes with actress Raquel Welch helping shatter even more barriers in social justice despite no longer being on the football field. 

Jim Brown’s success is undeniable with accolades that include; an NFL championship (1964), 9 Pro Bowl bids (1957-1965), 8 first-team All-Pro bids (1957-1961, 1963-1965), a second-team All-Pro bid (1962), 3 AP NFL MVP awards (1957, 1958, 1965), Bert Bell Award (1963), NFL Rookie of the Year (1957), 8 NFL rushing leader titles (1957-1961, 1963-1965), 5 NFL rushing touchdown leader titles (1957-1959, 1963, 1965), NFL 1960s All-Decade Team, NFL 50th Anniversary All-Time Team, NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team, Cleveland Browns Ring of Honor, Cleveland Browns No. 32 retired, a member of the NFL Hall of Fame, CFB150 Greatest college football player ever, Unanimous All-American (1956), Second-team All-American (1955), Syracuse Orange No. 44 retired and a member of the College football Hall of Fame.