Brown, Jim (1936—)
Brown, Jim (1936—)
Jim Brown was simply one of the best football players ever. In just nine seasons in the National Football League, Brown collected eight rushing titles en route to setting new records for most yards in a season and most career rushing yards. A three-time MVP, Brown was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971.
Born on the coastline of Georgia, Brown moved to Long Island, New York, and attended Manhasset High School where he earned allstate honors in basketball, track, and football. After high school Brown declined a minor league contract with the New York Yankees, opting to play football at Syracuse University instead. While playing for the Orangemen he earned All-American honors in both football and lacrosse.
In 1957 he was drafted by the Cleveland Browns of the National Football League, and in his first season he led the Browns to the Championship game. That year Brown also won the league rushing title, which earned him the Rookie of the Year Award. But in his opinion his freshman campaign was not "spectacular." In spite of Brown's modesty, fans thought otherwise as he quickly became a crowd favorite because of his seemingly fearless and tireless running style.
In 1963 Brown made history when he rushed for a league record 1883 yards. That season he had games of 162 (yards), 232, 175, 123, 144, 225, 154, 179, and 125. "I was twenty-seven years old. I never ran better in my life," said Brown. The following year Brown led his team to the NFL Championship, but in 1965 he shocked football fans by announcing his retirement in the prime of his career.
The popular Brown did not slip quietly into retirement however; he capitalized on his fame by becoming Hollywood's "first black man of action" by starring in several movies such as Rio Conchos (1964), the box office hit The Dirty Dozen (1967), and other films including The Grasshopper (1970), Black Gunn (1972), and Tick… Tick… Tick… (1970). In 1972 he starred in the world's first authentic blaxploitation movie, Slaughter, which was filmed in Mexico on a $75,000 budget. This placed him into competition with other black stars of that genre including Fred Williamson, Jim Kelly, and Pam Grier. Brown's most popular film and to some extent his most controversial was One Hundred Rifles (1969), in which Raquel Welch was his love interest. This was one of the first films involving a love scene between a black man and a white woman. "We took a publicity shot of me, with no shirt on, and Raquel, behind me, her arms seductively across my chest. For American film it was revolutionary stuff," said Brown.
In addition to football and acting Brown also was devoted to improving the conditions of the black community. In the late 1960s he formed the Black Economic Union to assist black-owned business and after leaving the silver screen he became a community activist.
In his day, Brown was one of the few athletes who could transcend the playing field and become part of the broader American culture. Even today, he is the standard by which all other NFL runners are measured.
—Leonard N. Moore
Brown, Jim. Out of Bounds. New York, Zebra Books, 1989.
James, Darius. That's Blaxploitation! New York, St. Martin's Grif-fin, 1995.
Toback, James. Jim: The Author's Self-centered Memoir on the Great Jim Brown. Garden City, New York, Doubleday, 1971.