James Nathaniel "Jim" Brown (born February 17, 1936) is an American former professional football player who has also made his mark as an actor. He is best known for his exceptional and record-setting nine-year career as a running back for the NFL Cleveland Browns from 1957 to 1965. In 2002, he was named by Sporting News as the greatest professional football player ever. He is considered to be one of the greatest professional athletes the U.S. has ever produced.
Learn more about Jim Brown at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. James Nathaniel Brown was born to Theresa (a housekeeper) and Swinton Brown (a professional boxer).
At Manhasset Secondary School, Brown earned 13 letters playing football, lacrosse, baseball, basketball and running track.
"Mr. Brown credits his self-reliance to having grown up on St. Simons's island, an all-black community off the coast of Georgia where he was raised by his grandmother and where racism did not affect him directly. At the age of 8 he moved to Manhasset, N.Y., where his mother worked as a domestic. It was at Manhasset High School that he became a football star and athletic legend"
He averaged a then-Long Island record 38 points per game for his basketball team. His career island scoring mark was later broken by future Boston Red Sox star Carl Yastrzemski of Bridgehampton.
As a sophomore at Syracuse University, Brown was the second leading rusher on the team. As a junior, he rushed for 666 yards (5.2 per carry). In his senior year, Brown was a unanimous first-team All-American. He finished 5th in the Heisman Trophy voting, and set school records for highest rush average (6.2) and most rushing touchdowns (6). He ran for 986 yards—third most in the country despite Syracuse playing only eight games—and scored 14 touchdowns. In the regular-season finale, a 61–7 rout of Colgate, he rushed for 197 yards, scored six touchdowns and kicked seven extra points for 43 points (another school record). Then in the Cotton Bowl, he rushed for 132 yards, scored three touchdowns and kicked three extra points. But a blocked extra point after Syracuse's third touchdown was the difference as TCU won 28-27.
Brown is a member of The Pigskin Club of Washington, D.C. National Intercollegiate All-American Football Players Honor Roll.
Perhaps more impressive was his success as a multi-sport athlete. In addition to his football accomplishments, he excelled in basketball, track, and especially lacrosse. As a sophomore, he was the second leading scorer for the basketball team (15 ppg), and earned a letter on the track team. His junior year, he averaged 11.3 points in basketball, and was named a second-team All-American in lacrosse. His senior year, he was named a first-team All-American in lacrosse (43 goals in 10 games to rank second in scoring nationally).
Brown was taken in the first round of the 1956 draft by the Cleveland Browns. He departed as the NFL record holder for both single-season (1,863 in 1963) and career rushing (12,312 yards), as well as the all-time leader in rushing touchdowns (106), total touchdowns (126), and all-purpose yards (15,549). He was the first player ever to reach the 100-rushing-touchdowns milestone, and only a few others have done so since, despite the league's expansion to a 16-game season in 1978 (Brown's first four seasons were only 12 games, and his last five were 14 games). Brown's record of scoring 100 touchdowns in only 93 games stood until LaDainian Tomlinson did it in 89 games during the 2006 season. Brown holds the record for total seasons leading the NFL in all-purpose yards (5: 1958–1961, 1964), and is the only rusher in NFL history to average over 100 yards per game for a career. Brown was also a superb receiver out of the backfield, catching 262 passes for 2,499 yards and 20 touchdowns. Every season he played, Brown was voted into the Pro Bowl, and he left the league in style by scoring three touchdowns in his final Pro Bowl game. Perhaps the most amazing feat is that Jim Brown accomplished these records despite never playing past 29 years of age. Brown's 6 games with at least 4 touchdowns remains an NFL record. LaDainian Tomlinson and Marshall Faulk both have five games with 4 touchdowns.
He told me, 'Make sure when anyone tackles you he remembers how much it hurts.' He lived by that philosophy and I always followed that advice.
—John Mackey, 1999
Brown's 1,863 rushing yards in the 1963 season remain a Cleveland franchise record. It is currently the oldest franchise record for rushing yards out of all 32 NFL teams. While others have compiled more prodigious statistics, when viewing Brown's standing in the game his style of running must be considered along with statistical measures. He was very difficult to tackle (shown by his leading 5.2 yards per carry), often requiring more than one person to bring him down.
Brown retired far ahead of the second-leading rusher and remains the league's eighth all-time leading rusher, and is still the Cleveland Browns all-time leading rusher.
Brown had begun his career as an actor with an appearance in the film Rio Conchos in 1964, then played a villain in a 1967 episode of I Spy called "Cops and Robbers", went on to star in the 1967 war movie The Dirty Dozen (during the filming of which he announced his retirement from professional football), the 1970 movie ...tick...tick...tick..., as well as in numerous other features. In 1969, Brown starred in 100 Rifles with Burt Reynolds and Raquel Welch. The film was one of the first to feature an interracial love scene. Raquel Welch reflects on the scene in Spike Lee's Jim Brown: All-American. Brown acted with Fred Williamson in films such as 1974's Three the Hard Way, 1975's Take a Hard Ride, 1982's One Down, Two to Go, 1996's Original Gangstas and 2002's On the Edge. He also guest-starred in a handful of television episodes of various programs with Williamson. In 1998, he provided the voice of Butch Meathook in Small Soldiers. Perhaps Brown's most memorable roles were as Robert Jefferson in The Dirty Dozen, and in Keenen Ivory Wayans' 1988 comedy I'm Gonna Git You Sucka. Brown also acted in 1987's The Running Man, an adaptation of a Stephen King story, as Fireball. He played a coach in Any Given Sunday and also appeared in Sucker Free City and Mars Attacks!. Brown appeared in some TV shows including Knight Rider in the season 3 premiere episode Knight of the Drones.
He was a subject of the book Jim: The Author's Self-Centered Memoir of the Great Jim Brown, by James Toback.
In 1983, seventeen years after retiring from professional football, Brown mused about coming out of retirement to play for the Los Angeles Raiders when it appeared that Pittsburgh Steelers running back Franco Harris would break his all-time rushing record. Brown disliked Harris' style of running, criticizing the Steeler running back's tendency to run out of bounds, a marked contrast to Brown's approach of fighting for every yard and taking on the oncoming tackler. Eventually, Walter Payton of the Chicago Bears broke the record on October 7, 1984, with Brown having ended thoughts of a comeback. Harris himself, who retired after the 1984 season after playing eight games with the Seattle Seahawks, fell short of Brown's mark. Another Steeler running back, Jerome Bettis (whose running style more resembled Brown's), would later surpass Brown.
Brown's autobiography was published in 1989 by Zebra Books. It was titled Out of Bounds and was co-written with Steve Delsohn.
In 1993, Brown was hired as a color commentator for the Ultimate Fighting Championship, a role he occupied for the first six pay-per-view events.
In 1988 Brown founded the Amer-I-Can Program. He currently works with kids caught up in the gang scene in Los Angeles and Cleveland through this Amer-I-Can program. It is a life management skills organization that operates in inner cities and prisons.
In 2008, Brown initiated a lawsuit against Sony and EA Sports for using his likeness in the Madden NFL video game series. He claimed that he "never signed away any rights that would allow his likeness to be used".
In 2002, film director Spike Lee released the film Jim Brown: All-American; a retrospective on Brown's professional career and personal life.
Brown currently serves as a Executive Advisor to the Cleveland Browns. His role includes assisting to build relationships with Brown's players and to further enhance the NFL’s wide range of sponsored programs through the Browns player programs department.
Brown's memorable professional career led to his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971, while The Sporting News selected him as the greatest football player of all time. Brown's football talents at Syracuse garnered him a berth in the College Football Hall of Fame. Brown also earned a spot in the Lacrosse Hall of Fame, giving him a rare triple crown of sorts as well as being one of the few athletes to be a Hall of Fame member in more than one sport.
Brown’s claim to the title of greatest running back of all time is supported by statistics. In 118 career games, Brown averaged 104.3 yards per game and 5.2 yards per carry. None of the NFL’s career rushing leaders come close to these spectacular totals. For example, Walter Payton averaged only 88 yards per game during his career with a 4.4 yards-per-carry average. Emmitt Smith averaged only 81.2 yards per game with a 4.2 yards-per-carry average.
The only top ten all-time rusher who even approaches Brown’s totals, Barry Sanders, posted a career average of 99.8 yards per game and 5.0 yards per carry. However, Barry Sanders’ father, William, was frequently quoted as saying that Jim Brown was “the best I’ve ever seen.”
On November 4, 2010, Brown was chosen by NFL Network's NFL Films production The Top 100: NFL's Greatest Players as the second greatest player in NFL history.