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Jim Brown Biography

Jim Brown Biography - Cleveland Browns Hall of Fame Running Back

By Loot, NFL Handicapper,

Jim Brown is thought by many historians to be the greatest running back of all-time, the greatest football player in history, and perhaps one of the world’s greatest-ever athletes. From 1957 to 1965, he starred for the Cleveland Browns and was the league’s most dominant running back for his entire career. In addition, Brown was a great basketball and lacrosse player.

Brown, born in 1936 in Georgia, was a standout high school sports star, before enrolling at Syracuse. In his senior season, he was first team All-American and 5th in the Heisman voting. While attending Syracuse, he was the leading scorer on the basketball and an All-American lacrosse star.

Brown was the 6th pick of the 1957 NFL Draft. Among those picked ahead of him were future Hall of Famers Paul Hornung and Len Dawson. Brown immediately served notice that he meant business leading the league in yards and touchdowns. It would become routine. Brown was the leading rusher in the NFL for his first 5 seasons.

There have certainly been some great running backs before and especially since the days of Jim Brown. But Brown was somehow different. He moved a little faster than everybody. Pro-Bowl defenders bounced off him like nothing. Even with the grainy black-and-white footage, Brown’s greatness comes through in living color.

Picture of Jim Brown

Cleveland was above .500 every season during Brown’s tenure and went 79-34 in his 9-year career. They only made it to the championship game once--in 1964, shutting out Johnny Unitas and the Colts, 27-0. One can only wonder what the Browns would have been like during this time if not for the work of Jim Brown.

To this day, Brown still holds the record with 5 seasons of leading the league in all-purpose yardage. He remains the lone back in league history to average 100 yards or more for every game he played. When looking at players who compare to Brown statistically, they played a ton more games. Brown, the onetime career rushing leader, played 118 games. The current leader, Emmitt Smith, played 226 games.

A few things that stand out about Brown: He never missed a game. Being the featured offensive player, he attracted a lot of attention and incurred a lot of contact. But it was a men among boys and usually it was the defender who was the worse for wear after tangling with Brown. When looking at Brown’s stats, he led the league in everything. There may be a few gaps here and there, but no one was as dominant in every category as Brown.

When Brown called it quits, he led all running backs in basically every category. His numbers still stand up well today, which is amazing considering his short career and the fact that all the seasons he played were either 12 or 14 games long. In addition, Brown quit while in his twenties. Brown was also a useful ball catcher, with 262 catches for 20 touchdowns. Also working in Brown’s favor was how he went out on top--an endearing trait for any athlete. In Brown’s final season, he led the league in rushes, yards, and touchdowns.

Brown led the league in yards per game in 8 of 9 seasons. He was the rushing champion in 8 of his 9 seasons. When judging talent historically, the most reliable standard is comparing an athlete to his contemporaries. In that sense, there haven’t been many more dominant performers than Brown in the annals of sport, not just football.

Brown pursued a career in Hollywood following football and managed to get some good roles in movies like The Dirty Dozen and the Slaughter series. He turned into a highly-visible community activist, championing key African-American issues, namely in the area of strengthening the community.

A lot of people across all generations have opinions to who the best was. Usually, it’s someone from their era, hence all the younger people who might say the greatest was Barry Sanders. But no one argues more insistingly than the now-aging generation of people fortunate enough to have seen Brown do his thing on the gridiron. For good reason. He was simply a step above. Watching him play, you can see the difference and his numbers look a little different than all the other top guys. Even as he grew older, he would come across as the last guy you would ever want to mess with. On the football field, that’s what he was--the most punishing and dominant running back that has ever been.

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