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Remembering the life and legacy of Jim Brown

Jim Brown (44) during his time at Syracuse (photo via Goodyear Cotten Bowl Classic).
Jim Brown (44) during his time at Syracuse (photo via Goodyear Cotten Bowl Classic).

Jim Brown was one of the greatest athletes to walk on the Syracuse University campus. As a senior in 1956, Brown was a consensus first team All-American and finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting for the season. On top of his football career, Brown was a decorated athlete in lacrosse and track and field at SU, leading those teams to national success as well.

The New York native played four seasons for Syracuse, and was drafted seventh overall by the Cleveland Browns in the 1957 NFL Draft. He could do things on a football field that other people only dream of, as described by his peers.

“Jim Brown was the greatest running back that has ever breathed. He had great balance, he had great speed, and he had great size. At 235 pounds he could run 100 yards in under 10 seconds. When he made up his mind to do it he was going to do it. You couldn’t knock him off his feet. He always shocked everybody with how fast he was. I mean he had power, you don’t see anybody knock him down. He never missed a game, that says all you need to know about his toughness. Nobody could hurt him, nobody could touch him, nobody was better - he proved it every Sunday.”

Brown set a plethora of records during his nine-year career in Cleveland. When he retired in 1965, Brown had the marks of the most rushing yards in a single season, career rushing yards, most rushing touchdowns, total touchdowns, all-purpose yards, and was a 3 time league MVP. And yet, despite his football prowess, according to Syracuse football broadcaster Matt Park, he was more than just a football player.

“He was as accomplished in his field as any athlete has ever been.," Park said. “In his case, it was hard to define what field because he transcended his one chosen sport that everybody knows him for in professional football. He’s arguably the best professional football player there ever was and still has style and record that stands to this day. On top of that, was such a pure athlete while in college at Syracuse that he translated that to the basketball court, the lacrosse field, and the track. He was ahead of his time in that way.”

Jim Brown playing lacrosse during his time at Syracuse Univertsity (photo via

On top of his greatness, Brown made a point to always stand up for what he believed in. He worked with other athletes such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, and Muhammed Ali among others to fight for their beliefs in a very contentious time in America.

“If we belived him and trusted him, we could then back him up.,” Brown said about the situation. “At the risk of whatever we had to take, in other words, we knew there was great risk. In my office in Cleveland in the back room, we all got together for about five hours and he [Ali] thanked us for being there with him. We agreed that we would fully support his particular stance and give him that public support.”

Brown was deeply passionate about what he cared for and valued. His community of Manhasset, New York, was a place that shaped him before he got to Syracuse, and made him the man he became for the rest of his life, as he detailed in his enrichment speech to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971.

“So to all of you, I hope you can remember that the arrogant, the bad Jim Brown can be humble when he is given true love and when he is able to talk about people he truly respects.”

Jim Brown meant so much to every community he touched, and so many more. His life, and legacy, will never be forgotten.