He came, he saw, he conquered. And then, like a thief in the night, he disappeared from professional football with every rushing record known to man. Many have been re-established, but the legend of Jim Brown remains as powerful as the body-scattering runs that lifted him to prominence as the Cleveland Browns ultimate offensive weapon from 1957 to 65. He was, simply, the greatest pure runner in the history of the NFL.
Brown was a physical masterpiece, a gift from the football gods. His 18-inch neck, wide shoulders and 45-inch chest tapered down to a 32-inch waist and massive thighs that carried him around the field with the grace and power of a jaguar. Brown ran with head high, nostrils flaring, legs pumping and powerful arms swatting away tacklers like flies. He was an amazing combination of power and speed who could juke past slower defenders or run over linebackers and defensive backs.
A multisport star at Syracuse, he stormed through the NFL as a 1957 rookie, running for 942 yards and posting the first of eight rushing championships he would claim over a nine-year career. His yearly rushing totals would become the standard for future runners to aspire: 1,527, 1,329, 1,257, 1,408, 1,863, 1,446 and 1,544. The beauty of Brown was that everybody knew he was going to get the ball, and the opposing team still couldnt stop him.
The nine-time Pro Bowl choice was equally intimidating off the field, where his menacing glares, in-your-face attitude and outspoken views often were interpreted as resentful and rebellious. He played the game without emotion, the same way he delivered the shocking 1965 news that he would retire, at age 29, while filming a movie in London. He left at the top of his game, the proud owner of one championship ring (1964) and 20 NFL records that included rushing yards (12,312), yards per carry (5.2) and rushing touchdowns (106).
back | next