By Chris Willis, NFL Films
|Jim Brown, Pro Football Hall of Fame, running back|
Today the NFL world mourns the loss of the great Jim Brown at the age of 87.
After being drafted in the first round of the 1957 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns, the 6-2, 232-pound Brown dominated the league for the next nine seasons. Over those nine seasons Brown led the NFL in rushing 8 times finishing with a then NFL-record 12,312 rushing yards.
He also has on his Pro Football Hall of Fame resume:
Rookie of the Year (1957)
3 NFL MVPs (1957, 1958, 1965)
All NFL or All-Pro for all 9 seasons
9 Pro Bowls
1964 NFL Championship win
1960’s All-Decade Team
NFL 50th Anniversary Team
NFL 75th Anniversary Team
NFL 100th Anniversary Team
Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 1971
Cleveland Browns Ring of Honor
Cleveland Browns Jersey Number 32 Retired
The first time I met Jim Brown I was a high school senior in Columbus, Ohio in 1989. At a banquet held in Columbus, the NFL Alumni Association held an event honoring Jim Brown. As an eighteen-year-old growing up in central Ohio, I just knew I had to go to the event and met Jim Brown. At a local golf course banquet hall I waited with several hundred people to hear from Brown. Showing up a few minutes late, Brown gave a great speech about being part of a brotherhood of players with the NFL Alumni. Right after his speech I introduced myself. I was nervous but Brown treated me like a friend, asking about my high school football team. He then signed my book, "Off My Chest" (written with Myron Cope, 1964). It was a night I won’t forget.
A few years later after I graduated from college and started working for NFL Films my path crossed with Jim Brown again. In July of 1996 I was working as an assistant director on a project titled “The Browns are Back.” It was the year after Art Modell moved his franchise to Baltimore but the city of Cleveland was able to keep the name and history of the Browns. A fan event was held at Hiram College (the Browns old training camp site) and over 80 former Browns players and coaches attended.
During this event we interviewed many former Browns for a film that aired in 1996. While there Jim Brown showed up to show his support for the new Browns franchise. He looked like he could still play, although he was 60 years old. It was another moment I won’t forget.
Hearing the news today of the passing of Jim Brown made me think of these two meetings with the greatest running back in NFL history. I know the following weeks I’ll be digging into my library to read about the life and career of Jim Brown.
If you want to join me in reading about Jim Brown you have plenty to choose from. Besides "Off My Chest" written with Myron Cope, there are:
1. Jim Brown: The Golden Year 1964 (by Stan Isaacs, 1970)
2. Jim (by James Toback, 1971)
3. Out of Bounds (by Jim Brown with Steve Delsohn, 1989)
4. Jim Brown: The Fierce Life of an American Hero (by Mike Freeman, 2006)
5. Jim Brown: Last Man Standing (by Dave Zirin, 2018)
All of these titles are worth the read. They will give you a more in-depth view of Brown and his life and career, especially his autobiography "Out of Bounds" written with Steve Delsohn.
RIP Jim Brown.