Jim Brown is to running backs what Superman is to cartoon heroes. Standing 6-foot-2 and packing 230 hard pounds on his square-shouldered frame, he was an explosive fullback, combining outstanding speed with awesome power.
Brown played only nine seasons for the Cleveland Browns -- and led the NFL in rushing eight times. He averaged 104 yards a game, a record 5.2 yards a pop. He ran for at least 100 yards in 58 of his 118 regular-season games (he never missed a game). He ran for 237 yards in a game twice, scored five touchdowns in another game and four times scored four touchdowns. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards in seven seasons, scorching opponents for 1,527 yards in one 12-game season and 1,863 in a 14-game season.
"For mercurial speed, airy nimbleness, and explosive violence in one package of undistilled evil, there is no other like Mr. Brown," wrote Pulitzer Prize winning sports columnist Red Smith.
Unlike most athletes, Brown retired when he was on top. At age 30, he decided he'd rather star in movies than on a football field. When he left the game before the 1966 season, no player had ever ran for as many yards (12,312) or scored more touchdowns (126) or rushing touchdowns (106). "And he played at a time when defenses were set against the run first and the pass second," said Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers.
Amazingly, football might not have been Brown's best sport. Some say he was a more talented lacrosse player, and he is the only person to be inducted into the halls of fame for pro football, college football and lacrosse.
Brown was born Feb. 17, 1936 on St. Simons Island off the southern coast of Georgia. He was abandoned by his father about two...