Jim Brown of the Cleveland Browns was a multi-sport star in addition to being a football superstar.
Jim Brown of the Cleveland Browns is widely respected as the greatest football player of all time, and the model running back who did everything well. Younger fans have probably heard their parents and grandparents describe him.
He was, big, fast, tough, smart, and unbelievably quick. He could go around you, but mainly he ran right over you. He was also a punishing blocker for halfbacks Bobby Washington and Ernie Green. Brown could also pick up the blitz and pick up passes. He completely mastered virtually every aspect of being a running back in the NFL.
But even your grandparents may not be aware that Jim Brown was a multi-sport athlete, especially in his days playing for the Syracuse University Orange. He could be compared to Jim Thorpe, the legendary football star who was also the 1912 pentathlon and decathlon gold medalist, only to have his medals taken away because he had received money for playing semi-pro baseball.
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He was also a founding member of the NFL and though he threw his arm out as a pitcher, he played major league baseball as an outfielder.
Is it ridiculous to compare Jim Brown to the likes of Jim Thorpe? Well, hold on to your hat, because here we go.
Jim Brown not only played fullback for the Browns, but he also returned kickoffs. In college, Jim Brown led the nation in kickoff return yardage in 1955.
Brown was also the placekicker. One game he scored 43 points on six touchdowns and seven extra points.
Can you name any defensive backs on those Syracuse teams? How about Jim Brown? That’s right, he was a first-string safety in college, and led the team in interceptions with three in 1956 and had eight in his three-year varsity career.
In January, ESPN selected Jim Brown as the best college football player of all-time. Yet, he finished sixth in the Heisman voting, which was won by quarterback Paul Hornung, who led his team to a 2-8 record, with three touchdowns versus 13 interceptions.
He threw for 913 yards, while Jim Brown rushed for 986 yards. Also like Brown, Hornung played safety, and was a placekicker and he added 420 yards rushing, so no question Hornung was a hugely talented player. But please read these numbers again: 2-8 W/L, 3-13 TD-INT, 913 passing yards, 420 rushing. It was a matter of some controversy in 1956, and today it is downright embarrassing.
Part of the problem was that televised football was still in its infancy, and Syracuse just did not get much national attention until Brown made the scene. Even so, the 1956 Heisman selection process was a joke.
Brown’s football resume is like no one else’s, but we are just getting started. Do you remember the “Bo knows” commercials, in which Bo Jackson would be participating in all sorts of sports? Well, Jim Brown’s real life was like that, too, especially in college.