Story of the Week
The most prolific rusher of all-time is Jim Brown. The former great Syracuse U. star gained 12,312 yards before retiring in his prime after nine seasons in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns after the 1965 season. For the record, the NFL season in those days was just 12 games until 1961, when it increased to 14 games, thus making Brown's total career rushing numbers all the more impressive; the NFL season now is 16 games.
His average yards per carry for his career was a record 5.22. That’s an amazing 5.22 yards gained each and every time he ran the football. He scored 126 touchdowns. And he physically punished those who attempted to tackle him.
Suggesting that Jim Brown is the greatest running back who ever lived is like suggesting that the universe is big. He led the NFL in rushing in eight of the nine years he played. And the man was at his peak when he retired. Pro football started to become a crisis in Brown’s life after the 1962 season. The players were revolting against Coach Paul Brown’s strict rules. Jim Brown told Cleveland owner Art Modell he might retire unless something was done about it.
Modell fired his legendary coach, and hired Blanton Collier to replace Paul Brown for the 1963 season. Collier redesigned the Cleveland blocking system, thus permitting Jim Brown more flexibility in his split-second decisions. Brown was not only very powerful, but fast and quick, and he benefited greatly from Collier’s scheme. In 1963, Jim Brown rushed for 1,863 yards during the 14-game season, an average of 133 yards per game, and an incredible 6.4 yards per carry.
Jim Brown never missed a game during his playing career. Brown could have easily played another several years. But after the 1965 season, he had had enough, and elected to retire at the very top of his game at age 29.
I met Jim Brown at a sports memorabilia show in 1990. I reminded him of one of the most memorable plays I’ve ever seen in sports. The St. Louis Football Cardinals (now in Arizona) had a small but tough-as-nails cornerback named Pat Fischer. Fischer stood 5’7" tall and weighed 175 pounds. Brown, 6’2" and 230 pounds, had a sculpted body with little-to-no body fat and a 32" waist. On one particular play, I saw Pat Fischer meet Jim Brown head-on in the open field. Brown was at full steam, but Fischer brought him to the ground one-on-one. I’ll never forget it. Brown hadn’t forgotten it either.
There have been great running backs in the NFL; there are today. But if you never saw Jim Brown play, you missed something. If I were drafting one player at any position to start my all-time football team, my very first draft choice with absolutely no hesitation would be #32, Jim Brown.
Last Week’s Trivia
"Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing." What legendary field general originated this line? The field general was not Vince Lombardi, although Lombardi picked it up at West Point, and played on it during his coaching career. On the eve of the Navy game in 1944, the Army team was sent a telegram that included this phrase about winning. It was sent from the Phillippines and signed by General Douglas MacArthur.
Trivia Question of the Week
Who is the youngest person ever to play major league baseball? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.