NFL Legend and Activist Jim Brown Dies at 87

Listen to this story

Brown did many great things so let’s focus on that.

On Friday we lost one of the greatest football players and athletes the sports world has ever known when Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Brown passed away at the age of 87.

The Cleveland Browns legend is considered by many to be the greatest running back, and even player, in NFL history. If you saw him play, it’s hard to disagree.

His athletic journey began after moving from Georgia to Long Island. He was a five-sport star at Manhasset High School before taking his talents to Syracuse University. There Brown became a legend while playing football, basketball, lacrosse and running track. He began the storied history of the famed number 44, later worn by stars who followed him- Ernie “The Elmira Express” Davis and Floyd Little. Davis was the first Black player to win the Heisman Trophy and Little was a 3x All-American.

Both men, sadly, passed before Brown; Davis in 1961 at the age of 23 and Little, a Pro Football Hall of Famer (2010), in 2021 at 78.

Brown starred on the gridiron and on the lacrosse field and became a 2x All-American. It was a continuation of his prowess in high school, where he earned all-star honors for three years. To this day, he is lauded as one of the greatest ever to play the game and was inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1983.

“Jim Brown is widely regarded as one of the greatest athletes to ever wear Orange,” said Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud. “Jim was a four-sport athlete at Syracuse who was an All-American in both football and lacrosse. An NFL legend, he set numerous records, won countless awards and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, among others. He epitomized Syracuse University’s deep commitment to military service having been commissioned as a second lieutenant through Army ROTC and continuing his military service in the Army Reserves while playing in the NFL. He went on to be a successful actor, tireless advocate for social justice and one of Syracuse’s proudest ambassadors.

After dominating collegiately, Brown was selected by the Cleveland Browns with the sixth pick in the 1957 NFL Draft. Over his nine-year NFL career, Brown led the league in rushing in eight of his nine seasons, set records in rushing yards and TDs, won Rookie of the Year, was a 3x MVP and won an NFL title in 1964.

But in 1965, after 12,312 yards rushing and 106 TDs, the 9x Pro Bowler shockingly decided to hang up his cleats at the age of 30 to focus on acting and, more importantly, civil rights.

In 1967, Brown starred as Robert T. Jefferson in his first major film, “The Dirty Dozen.”

That year he also played an integral part in the “Ali Summit,” where Black athletes such as Bill Russell, Lew Alcindor, and Washington running back Bobby Mitchell gathered at the offices of the Negro Industrial Economic Union to support Muhammad Ali, who had his titles stripped for refusing to fight in the Vietnam War. 

Not only was this a historical meeting of the most vocal Black athletes in sports, but it took place at the offices of the Black empowerment organization that Brown had founded and later expanded to other cities across the country.

The fact that Brown was organizing and empowering Black communities at 30 speaks volumes of a man whom many only recognized for his athletic talents and achievements. 

But organizing and fighting for equal rights was a pursuit he maintained his entire life.

Continue reading over at First and Pen.

This content has been brought to you by First and Pen in partnership with TheHub.News. First and Pen “amplifies local sports stories from voices of color to the national conscience…”

Follow @FirstandPen on Twitter.

You May Also Like