A few days before Super Bowl X in 1976, some of the NFL’s biggest stars mingled at a secret party at a Miami nightclub. Chuck Foreman, who was a fearsome running back with the Minnesota Vikings, remembers rubbing shoulders with some of the biggest stars of the time, including Walter Payton and OJ Simpson.
Then he sat down Jim Brown, the fastest running back of all time, who left the Cleveland Browns a decade ago. Foreman, who used to roll over back lines and corners for money, recalled being scared. He grew to idolize Brown not just for his skills on the field, but for his willingness to fight for civil rights and leave the game at the height of his powers.
“When I was growing up, there was Jim Brown, Jim Brown and Jim Brown,” said Foreman, now 72. “He was bigger than a lot of tight ends and faster than a lot of receivers.” But he also gave up his interests, especially in those days, being an outspoken Black man.”
Foreman, like many others, called him Mr. Brown. But when they talked, the younger brother’s fear disappeared. Brown praised Foreman’s play and success with the Vikings. He then gave instructions to the Foreman that have not changed since then.
“‘Know when to get off,'” Foreman said Brown told him. “‘Don’t risk your job more than two inches.'”
Brown, Foreman said, wasn’t just telling him to run smart, he was telling him to think about his future and not give his body away unnecessarily.
Although he did not say, Brown, who died on Friday at the age of 87, He would also be talking about life outside of football. In a game with 100 percent risk, few NFL players quit because they want to. Many have injuries that do not heal and are taken out of the game when their coaching career is over. Those who retire when they want often do so because teams are no longer interested.
Brown was different. He left the NFL after the 1965 season, ninth in the league and one of the best. He rushed for 1,544 yards and 17 touchdowns, and caught 34 passes, four of them for scores. He was voted the league’s Most Valuable Player for the first time since his sophomore season.
His rushing record – specifically his 12,312 yards on the ground – was broken by Payton, Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith and others. But Brown’s career lasted just nine years and he played most of the 14-game streak, not the 16- or 17-game streak, during which chop blocks and other concussions are allowed. His 104.3 rushing yards per game The average is still a league record.
Then he left, choosing to make movies in Hollywood and with more money than in Cleveland. His breakthrough came when he was filming “The Dirty Dozen”. Brown told Art Modell, the team’s owner, that he would be late for training camp. Modell said he will pay Brown for every day he misses camp. Frustrated, Brown called a press conference to announce his retirement from the NFL
By this time, Brown had accomplished more in football than most would in many careers, including winning a championship in 1964, three MVP awards, and holding the NFL rushing record. But only a few succeeded. John Elway and Peyton Manning won Super Bowls in their final seasons, but neither was in their prime. Sanders retired from the Detroit Lions at just 30 years old, but won just one game.
Brown, on the other hand, was a sort of Mount Rushmore, an athlete who helped redefine the power an athlete could have on and off the field by demanding that owners and coaches treat players — especially black players — with respect.
“You could say that Wilt Chamberlain was his own man in basketball, but Jim Brown would have been the first player in the modern era to have such a style,” said Michael MacCambridge, author of “America’s. Sports: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Took Over the World.” “It was clear that Jim Brown was a different generation of players with a different mindset.”
The players who came later knew about this difference.
“There’s no one who played in the NFL who didn’t see Jim Brown as a legend on and off the field,” Tony Dorsett, one of 10 running backs with more than Brown’s rushing yards, said. he wrote on Twitter.
“You can’t underestimate the impact #JimBrown had on the @NFL,” Sanders he also wrote on Twitter.
Although he was exceptional on the field, Brown was far from perfect. He was arrested more than half a dozen times, including many for abusing women. He was not charged with a serious crime.
But when it came to the game that made him famous, Brown had few equals. Ernie Accorsi, the Browns’ general manager from 1985 to 1992, was in high school when he saw Brown play solo with the Baltimore Colts in 1959. Brown ran five touchdowns and 178 yards beating defenders and, for Accorsi, it was like watching Babe Ruth in his prime.
A few years later, Accorsi worked in the Colts’ front office with Dick Szymanski, who had been Baltimore’s quarterback in 1959. Szymanski told Accorsi that Weeb Ewbank, the Colts’ head coach at the time, had advised Brown to improve. play: When Brown lined up with his right hand in the dirt, he was running to the right, and vice versa.
Brown kept running at Szymanski throughout, and in the locker room after the game, Ewbank told Szymanski that he hated to think what Brown was running at if he hadn’t given Szymanski that advice.
“Teacher, I knew exactly where he was going, but I couldn’t catch him or catch him,” answered Szymanski.
In Brown’s illustrious career, few could.