Countdown to 2020: Best Cleveland Browns player to wear No. 28
Who is the best player to wear 28 for the Cleveland Browns?
The countdown to the 2020 NFL season is upon us. With 28 days remaining until the Browns season opener, we continue the countdown by celebrating the best Cleveland Browns player to ever wear number 28: Ben Davis.
Ben Davis had one of the more untraditional paths to becoming a professional football player. Davis was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1945. However, due to the racial conflict that embodied the area in which he was raised, Davis and his siblings moved in with their relatives. Davis ended up attending high school in New Jersey and graduating early at the age of 15.
Being too young for college, Davis attended a Bridgton Academy, a prep school in Maine, where he flourished in academics and played in the marching band. Davis chose to attend Defiance College in Northern Ohio because it offered a similar habitat to the one he enjoyed in Maine. It was while at Defiance that Davis’ football journey began.
Defiance College did not have a marching band, so Davis decided to go out for their football team for an extracurricular activity. Davis found his athletic calling as a running back and wide receiver for the Yellow Jackets. In his senior season, the Yellow Jackets went on to an undefeated nine-win season, and in the process, Davis earned Little All-American honors.
Davis was then selected in the 17th round of the 1967 NFL draft. However, after arriving in Cleveland, due to the offensive talent already in place, Davis was moved over to the defensive side of the ball. While he was finding his way as a cornerback, the Browns let Davis handle the kick returning duties. The rookie responded by leading the NFL in punt return average and finishing fifth in the league in kick return yards.
In his second season as a professional, Davis became the starting right cornerback for the Browns. Davis started all 14 games and led the team with eight interceptions. His 162 interception return yards led the entire NFL in 1968. In addition to his outstanding pass coverage, Davis also forced a team-high four fumbles in his sophomore season.
Unfortunately, just as his career was gaining serious momentum, Davis suffered a torn ACL injury that caused him to miss 13 games in 1969 and an additional six games in 1970. In 1971, Davis was able to return to the starting lineup on a regular basis, starting in all 12 contests he appeared in.
In 1972, Davis was officially able to shake off his injury concerns, starting in all 14 of the Browns games. Davis finished tied with Thom Darden for the team lead in interceptions with three. Davis would also earn his first and only Pro Bowl nomination in 1972.
Davis would end up being traded to the Detroit Lions for a fifth-round pick following the 1973 season. To be frank, it was not a trade that worked in the Browns favor. Davis would go on to play three seasons for the Lions.
Davis still holds a Browns’ record, intercepting a pass in seven straight contests. From being a 17th round draft choice to becoming a Pro Bowl cornerback, Davis is one of the more underappreciated players in team history and he is the best to wear number 28 for the Cleveland Browns.
Honorable mention: Ron Bolton.