Jim Brown is widely regarded as the single greatest running back ever to play professional football, and he amassed incredible statistics and a laundry list of achievements over the course of a career that ended in 1965 when he was only 29 years old.
The Cleveland Browns opted to spend their first round pick of the 1957 NFL Draft and the sixth overall on Brown, and he soon became the face of their franchise after debuting later that season. Brown won the NFL MVP in his rookie year after clearly demonstrating signs of being a superstar. With an incredibly strong core and upper body, Brown took pride in punishing those paid to tackle him.
Equally formidable running the ball or catching passes, Brown was a nightmare for defenders and defenses who simply didn’t possess the speed or strength to strike fear into the 62 230-pound Georgia native. Brown carried the ball over 200 times for nearly 1,000 yards and exactly 9 touchdowns during his rookie campaign, setting the foundation for an incredible and historic career. Brown eclipsed 1250 yards three times in seasons that were only 12 games long, including 1,527 yards and 17 touchdowns in 1958. Jim Brown continued to mow through the competition as the schedule was increased to 14 games in the early 1960s, besting 1,000 yards every single year except 1962, where he fell short by four yards while posting a career-best 517 yards receiving.
Brown averaged over 100 yards on the ground per game in seven of his nine seasons, and he set an incredible high water mark in 1963 with 1,863 yards on the ground, a total that was bolstered by an 80 yard run, the longest of his career. Jim Brown averaged 6.4 yards every time he ran the ball in his magical 1963 campaign; a mark that modern-day backs can only dream about. Lists of the greatest professional football players of all time typically begin with the name Johnny Unitas, but they are almost always followed by the name Jim Brown. Even a half-century later, Brown’s legacy endures, and modern-day players are well aware of his feats and incredible physical prowess.
Aside from his list of accomplishments on the field, Brown was also able to bring the African-American athlete into the spotlight during a time when many of them were facing racial prejudice in certain states. Often referred to as the Jackie Robinson of football, Jim Brown was the first African-American running back to dominate the sport during an era when integration was just beginning to become the norm. By retiring before his 30th birthday, Brown kept his body and mind intact, going on to a variety of other endeavors, including philanthropies and acting on the silver screen.