Who is the best player to ever wear number 48 for the Cleveland Browns?
The countdown to the 2020 NFL season is upon us. With 48 days remaining until the Browns season opener, we continue the countdown by celebrating the best Cleveland Browns player to ever wear number 48: Ernie Green.
Ernie Green was born and raised in Columbus, Georgia. Although he wanted to go to college close to home, the major universities in that region remained segregated and were not interested in Green. However, the University of Louisville was quite interested in Green and offered him a scholarship.
Green accepted the offer and then made his way to Louisville. The talented running back twice led the Cardinals in rushing and was an All-American honorable mention in his senior year. Green was later inducted to both the Louisville Cardinals Athletic Hall of Fame and the Kentucky Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Green was selected by the Green Bay Packers in the 14th round of the 1962 NFL draft. After arriving in Green Bay for training camp, Green made quite an impression on coach Lombardi. However, Green Bay was already set at the running back position, so Lombardi looked to trade their 14th round asset. The coach found a trading partner in fellow legend Paul Brown. With the recent news of Ernie Davis’ leukemia diagnosis, Brown was looking to pick up another running back and traded a seventh-round pick for Green.
Green spent the majority of his rookie season watching the game from the sidelines and learning the Browns offense. He was given a limited amount of carries and was the team’s leading kickoff returner in 1962. The following season, in 1963, the Browns made their first-ever head coaching change and Blanton Collier was tabbed to steer the ship.
Collier named Green the starting halfback, and the move paid off tremendously. Green helped pave the way for Jim Brown’s 1,863 rushing yards, an NFL record at the time. In addition to his lead blocking duties, Green carried the ball 87 times and amassed 526 yards. He also hauled in 28 receptions for 305 yards and three touchdowns. His 7.2 yards per touch led the entire NFL.
Green was a key contributor to the Browns championship season of 1964. He performed admirably as Brown’s lead blocker and helped the star running back win another rushing title. Green also led the Browns in total touchdowns in 1964 with ten.
The 1965 season would end up being Brown’s last in the NFL. Green, who was proving to be a model of consistency, once again helped lead Brown to a rushing title and an NFL MVP in his final season.
After Brown retired, the Browns looked to Green along with third-year running back, Leroy Kelly, to keep the running game on course. Both Green and Kelly proved worthy of the challenge and gained just shy of 1,900 combined rushing yards in 1966. They followed that up by combining for 1,915 rushing yards in 1967. Green was named to the Pro Bowl in both the 1966 and 1967 seasons.
Unfortunately, Green suffered a knee injury during a preseason game in 1968. After returning to play after missing six games and failing to fully recover, Green opted to retire at the season’s end. Green, who was only 30 years old at the time of his retirement, went on to become a successful business owner.
Green is an underappreciated and often overlooked running back in Browns’ history and in 2012 he was inducted into the Browns Legends Program. Ernie Green is without question the best player to ever wear number 48 for the franchise.