Jim Brown, one of the greatest running backs in the NFL, died on Thursday, May 18, 2023. His wife, Monique, announced his passing, stating that he “passed peacefully” at home. Brown was 87 years old.
Brown was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the first round of the 1957 draft. He played nine seasons with the Browns, rushing 12,312 yards with an average of 5.2 yards per carry. He ran for at least 100 yards in 58 regular season games and rushed for over 1,000 yards in seven seasons. Brown had a 1,527-yard year during a 12-game season and recorded 1,863 yards in a 14-game season. He led the league in rushing in eight of his nine seasons and was named a Pro Bowler each year. He led the Browns to the championship game three times, and they won the title in 1964.
He was born on February 17, 1936, in St. Simons Island, Georgia. Brown lettered in football, lacrosse, basketball, and track in college at Syracuse University. He scored a single game record 43 points in one college game, led the league in kickoff return average in ’55, led the nation in rushing touchdowns in ’56, and scored 26 touchdowns and rushed 2,091 yards during his college career.
Brown retired when he was just 30 years old to focus on acting and activism. His movie credits included The Dirty Dozen, Slaughter, The Running Man, Mars Attacks!, He Got Game, Any Given Sunday, and Draft Day.
He created the Amer-I-Can program to help gang members reform and become productive in their communities. Brown was active in the Civil Rights Movement and encouraged athletes to be involved in Black communities.
Despite his work in his community, Brown was arrested multiple times throughout his life. He was arrested for assault and battery in ’65, accused of forcing a woman to drink alcohol and have sex with him. He was accused of throwing a woman from a balcony and of assaulting a man at a traffic accident. He was charged with rape, sexual battery, and assault in ’85, though the charges were dropped. A year later he was arrested for allegedly beating up his fiancée and in ’99 he was convicted of smashing his wife’s car window.
Following Brown’s retirement, no Browns player has worn No. 32, and a statue of Brown is situated at FirstEnergy Stadium. In 2020, Brown was selected for the NFL 100 all-time team and was ranked as the No. 1 all-time player on the College Football 150 list.