American Pro Football player
for unto us a child is given, unto us a child is born.
This could have been quoted from the Cleveland Plain Dealer in writing of Cleveland Browns fullback Jim Brown, rather than a quote from the Holy Bible. During his 9 year career with the Browns, Jim Brown indeed led the team to the Promised Land.
February 17, 1936 saw the birth of Jim Brown on St. Simons Island located off Georgia's southern coast. He was abandoned by his father after only a few weeks. When he was 2 his mother left to work as a maid on Long Island, New York. Young Jim was left in the care of his great grandmother, sharing a house with his alcoholic grandmother. At the age of 4 he started school in a segregated 2 room schoolhouse that was little more than a shack. When he was 8, his mother sent for him to join her in New York. It was the first time they had seen each other in 6 years.
Jim Brown was a gifted athlete. While attending mostly white Manhasset High School, he earned 13 letters in football, basketball, lacrosse, baseball, and track. As a high school senior, he averaged 14.9 yards per carry in football and averaged 38 points per game in basketball.
While in high school, Brown and fellow athletes formed a gang called the Gaylords, and Brown was elected president. They engaged in some fights but nothing more serious, and no one ever did any jail time.
Out of high school, Brown attended Syracuse University. While a sophomore, Brown became the second leading rusher on the football team while becoming the second high scorer in basketball, then earning a letter in track the following spring.
Brown's junior year saw improvement. In football he rushed for 666 yards with a 5.2 yard per attempt average. In basketball he had a 11.3 point per game average and he became a second team All American in lacrosse.
In his senior year Brown exploded, gaining 986 yards in an 8 game season, averaging 6.2 yards per carry. He was third highest in the nation in yards gained, earning first team All American honors. He encored by becoming a first team All American in lacrosse, scoring 43 goals in 10 games to tie for the national title in scoring.
The football team appeared in the Cotton Bowl against TCU. Brown scored 3 touchdowns and kicked 3 extra points in the game, a losing effort for Syracuse with TCU winning by a score of 28-27.
Jim Brown was drafted #1 by the Cleveland Browns in 1957, going at #6 overall in the draft. He was named Rookie of the Year for 1957, gaining 942 yards, best of all pro running backs.
Next year (1958) Brown turned up the heat in the kitchen, gaining 1,527 yards and scoring 18 TDs on the way to gaining league MVP honors.
In 1959 and 1960, Brown gained 1,329 and 1,257 yards respectively in 12 game seasons, again best among pro running backs. In 1961 the NFL went to a 14 game schedule, and Brown once again was king of the mountain with 1,408 yards. This capped an incredible 5 straight seasons as top ground gainer among running backs.
The following year (1962) was the only year Brown failed to win the rushing title, coming just 4 yards short of the magical 1,000 yard mark. The Browns posted a mediocre 7-6-1 season and, in a player revolt, Jim Brown announced to team owner Art Modell that either he or coach Paul Brown was going to leave Cleveland. Paul Brown was fired as coach.
In 1963 under a new coach (Blanton Collier), Jim Brown blazed his way through defenses, gaining 1,863 yards total. Brown and his cohorts defeated the Baltimore Colts 27-0 for the NFL title.
In what would be his ninth and final season in 1965, Brown gained MVP honors again while gaining 1,544 yards and scoring 21 TDs (17 rushing). The Cleveland Browns repeated in appearing in the NFL title game, but went down to the Green Bay Packers 23-12.
To his opponents, Jim Brown was the devil in a football helmet, and the devil must be given his due. At 6'2'' and 225 lbs of square shouldered dynamite, Brown laid waste his foes. In his pro football career, spanning 9 seasons while remaining a Cleveland Brown, Jim Brown achieved a list of superlative accomplishments. Following is a partial list:
- Rookie of the Year (1957)
- Led all NFL rushers 8 out of 9 years
- Was selected All NFL Player 8 out 9 years
- NFL MVP 4 years (1957, 1958, 1963, and 1965)
- ( straight Pro Bowl appearances
- Gained 15,459 career yards, 12,312 yards rushing, 262 receptions
- Scored 756 points
- Averaged 104 yards per game
- Averaged 5.22 yards gained per attempt
- Rushed for over 1,000 yards 7 times
- In 9 seasons never missed a game
In the off season Brown shocked sports fans by announcing his retirement from football at the age of 30. He cited his desire to concentrate on his film career as well as his work in race relations. He, unlike many other players, left while at the peak of his game. He had gained a reputation as a punishing runner, extremely difficult to tackle. Jim Brown was a mobile granite mountain on the prowl for someone to crush. At the time of his retirement, no rushing back had ever scored as many TDs (126), rushed for more TDs (106), or gained as many rushing yards (12,312).
In an apt synopsis of what Jim Brown was to his opponents, Pulitzer Prize winning sports columnist Red Smith wrote: "For mercurial speed, airy nimbleness, and explosive violence in one package of undistilled evil, there is no other like Mr. Brown."
Jim Brown was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as part of the class of 1971.
They're gonna put me in the movies
In his film career Jim Brown appeared in 32 films. The Dirty Dozen and Ice Station Zebra were probably the best known of the lot.
Commitment to a cause
In his efforts in promoting race relations, in the 1960s Brown helped to form the Negro Industrial Economic Union, an organization designed to assist black owned businesses. In 1988 he created the Amer-I-Can program, an effort to redirect gang members from destructive behavior into productive channels. Brown helped to broker a cease fire between two of Los Angeles most violent gangs, the Crips and the Bloods.
Jim Brown has been critical of some fellow black athletes, taking them to task for what he percieves as a lack of involvement in the African-American community. Some who have come under this criticism are Michael Jordon, Charles Barkley, and Magic Johnson, athletes whom Brown terms as prima donnas.
Still crazy after all these years
With all his long list of accomplishments, Jim Brown's record is not without flaw. He has had several scrapes with the law. He has faced accusations of violent crime, primarily against women. In 1965 he was accused of forcing an 18 year old woman to have sex after giving her whiskey. A jury found him not guilty in a 10 day trial. In 1968 he was accused of throwing his girlfriend from a balcony, resulting in a charge of assault with intent to murder. The charge was dropped when the girlfriend refused to name Brown as her assailant. He was instead fined $300 for resisting a deputy. Brown was accused of assaulting a man following a traffic accident in 1969. That charge too resulted in an acquittal. In 1978 Brown was charged with the assault of a golfing partner. He was fined $500 and given one day in jail. In 1985 Brown was charged with rape, sexual battery and assault. Charged were dropped when the woman gave inconsistent testimony. In 1986 he was charged with beating his fiancee, and spent 3 hours in the lockup. Three days later the woman refused to pursue prosecution.
His most serious run in came in 1999, when he was convicted of smashing his 25 year old wife Monique's car window. He was acquitted of making terrorist threats against her. He was sentenced to 3 years of probation, lost his privilege to drive for 1 year, fined $1,700 (to be paid to a battered woman's shelter and a domestic abuse fund), and ordered to attend counseling for domestic abuse offenders. Brown refused to attend the ordered counseling and was given a 6 month jail sentence. He served the sentence in Ventura County, California and was released after 4 months served in July 2002.