Many elite football players have graced the NFL, but not so many have left such indelible marks on America's most followed sports league as Jim Brown. Born James Nathaniel Brown on February 17, 1936. Brown spent nine seasons in the league. He is regarded as the greatest running back and arguably the greatest NFL player. We may never see a player in this position dominate an era as he did in the late 50s to mid-60s.
Before making his league debut, Brown played college football at Syracuse University, wearing the now-retired No. 44 jersey. During his stint with the Orangemen football team, he earned unanimous all-America honors and was eventually inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1995.
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Brown was a one-of-a-kind college athlete: aside from football, he also played basketball and lacrosse and excelled in track and field. Many consider him one of the greatest lacrosse players of all time; he excelled so well in the sport that the Most Valuable Player award given to honor the best player in the Premier Lacrosse League is named after him.
Brown was selected 6th overall by the Cleveland Browns during the 1957 NFL Draft. He had a record-breaking rookie season: in a game against the Rams in 1957, Brown rushed for 237 yards, a single-season record that stood for 14 years and a rookie record that would only be surpassed 40 years after (he later equaled this total in 1961). That season, Brown was named NFL Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player.
The following year, he shattered the single-season rushing yards record set by Steve Van Buren, registering 1,527 yards in a 12-game season. He also led the league in touchdowns, tallying 17 TDs throughout the season, eight more than his closest competitor, Raymond Berry. These performances earned him his second consecutive MVP award.
Brown spent all his professional playing time in Cleveland and retired with many records. He held the single-season rushing yards record (1,863) from 1963 before OJ Simpson surpassed his total in 1973. He also finished with the all-time career rushing yards (12,312). Cleveland's No. 32 was so dominant that he led the league in rushing yards throughout his playing career, except in 1962 (a record eight times). He remained the only rusher in league history to average 100 yards per game for an entire career and was the first player to cross the 10,000-rushing yards mark.
Brown also departed as the player with the most career rushing touchdowns (106) and total touchdowns (126). He holds the record for most games with at least four touchdowns (6). The legend led the league in rushing touchdowns five times, including three consecutive seasons (1957 to 1959), and also led the league in scoring in 1958.
Brown retired with 3 MVPs, an NFL championship, and was named first-team All-Pro eight times and Second-team All-Pro in 1962. He made the Pro Bowl nine out of nine seasons and the NFL 50th, 75th, and 100th Anniversary Teams.
At age 29, Brown retired from professional football and ventured into acting. He was inducted into the Pro Bowl Hall of Fame in 1971.
Fun fact: since Brown led the Cleveland Browns to an NFL championship, no other Cleveland professional sports team did the same until Lebron James led the Cavs to a historic NBA title win in 2016.
You're not wrong if you have Jim Brown as the greatest player of all time. Like they say in pop culture, numbers don't lie, and Brown's numbers continue to speak for himself.
What's most impressive about his career is that he achieved all these milestones before turning 30 despite not playing a 16-game season (His first four and last five years were 12- and 14-game seasons, respectively). A legend in every sense of the word.
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