Flashback Athlete of the Month for June 2023
Jim Brown was a former All-American athlete who played for the Cleveland Browns as a star running back, setting records and earning election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Known for a running style that administered as much punishment as he received, Brown was as durable as he was rugged, playing all 118 games from the season opener in his 1957 rookie year to the season finale in 1965, which was his last season.
“Nobody ever ran with a football like James Nathaniel Brown,” legendary Los Angeles Times sports columnist Jim Murray wrote. “Jim Brown wasn’t a player; he was a Force.”
Although he only played nine seasons, Brown held every meaningful rushing record at the time of his retirement. Among the most significant: single-season yards gained (1,863 in 1963), a record that stood for a decade; and records for career yards (12,312 yards) and touchdowns (106) that stood for two decades. In the ninth game of his rookie season, facing the Los Angeles Rams, Brown ran for 237 yards. This feat became an NFL record for 14 seasons and remained as a rookie record for 40 years.
Even now, he is the only player in NFL history to average more than 100 rushing yards per game for his career (104.3), and his 5.2 yards per rush is second-best among players with at least 1,000 carriers.
After retiring in 1966, Brown went on to pursue an acting career, landing roles in films like The Dirty Dozen (1967), Mars Attacks! (1996) and Any Given Sunday (1999). Along with his acting ambitions, Brown sought to use his fame and influence to amplify African American causes and fought against racial discrimination in his own way. During the 1960s, he supported Black-owned businesses by helping to create the Negro Industrial Economic Union. He was also connected to other civil rights leaders of the era: Black nationalist Malcolm X, musician Sam Cooke, and boxer Muhammad Ali.
On May 18, 2023, Brown passed away at age 87 inside his home in Los Angeles with his second wife, Monique Brow, at his side.