Cleveland Browns Magnificent Seven: Best players from the 20th century
Gene Hickerson was part of an outstanding offensive line that blocked for Jim Brown, Gene Washington, and Leroy Kelly, producing 1,000 yard seasons year after year. Hickerson went to six straight Pro Bowls, and probably should have gone to six more. He was a sixteen-year veteran.
Three-time All-Pro and member of the Hall of Fame All-1960s team. In 1961, he suffered a broken leg and missed the season, and also missed two games in 1962. But after that, he did not miss a game for the rest of his career, a span of 11 more seasons.
In addition to being an incredibly tough football player, Hickerson was a practical joker and bit of a con man. One of his cons was to never admit that football required much effort. He was famous for avoiding working too hard in summer camp. Hickerson must have worked out on his own in order to be in such fantastic shape but tried to hide it as much as possible.
Roommate Dick Schafrath‘s, in his autobiography, offers this anecdote about Hickerson’s intensity (or lack of it) at the 1964 World Championship game:
"“Gene Hickerson was now on the field doing his regular pre-game warm-up, which consisted of nothing. He always stood leaning against the goal post watching everyone.”"
So, youngsters, that’s how you prepare for the World Championship. You lean against the goal post and watch your teammates warm up.
You know what, though? His teammate Schafrath was a four-time All-Pro (one more than Hickerson) and made six straight Pro Bowls (the same as Hickerson). Like Hickerson, he was an iron man, missing only one game in his career. It seems impossible that Hickerson is in the Hall of Fame without his pal Schafrath. Perhaps the tiebreaker is that Hickerson starter his career a year before Schafrath and continued to play at the highest level for two seasons after Schafrath’s retirement.
After retirement, however, Hickerson’s physical condition eventually deteriorated. Perhaps the years of pounding in the NFL had taken their toll. In 2007, during his induction at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, he was unable to speak, and so his son had to give his induction speech for him. Gene was brought onstage in his wheelchair, pushed by Hall of Famers Jim Brown, Leroy Kelly, and Bobby Mitchell.
Todd Porter of The Canton Repository described the scene thusly:
"“Brown, Kelly and Mitchell, all Cleveland Browns who rode to the Hall of Fame through holes that Gene Hickerson opened, stood behind Hickerson and pushed his wheelchair up to the stage as he was inducted into the Hall. Many cheeks glistened under the lights at Fawcett Stadium. It was one of the most poignant moments in 44 years of Hall of Fame Enshrinement history.”"