Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown turned 80 on Wednesday, and a one-hour NFL Network special celebrated Brown’s life and football career.
“Jim Brown: 80 Years and Running” had plenty of Brown highlights, but it was far from focused on Brown’s football accomplishments. A roundtable of Hall of Fame running backs — Franco Harris, Eric Dickerson, Curtis Martin, Marcus Allen and Marshall Faulk — discussed Brown’s life and legacy. Highlights of other current and former players were interspersed with their discussion, and Brown joined the roundtable for the second half of the show.
“Cleveland is an incredible sports town, the epitome of blue collar,” Allen said. “Jim Brown, he was the Browns…and the city was the Browns. It was the perfect marriage.”
Harris said he wore No. 32 as a high school player because he “idolized” Brown. Martin said much of the panel was “sitting here because of what Jim did” and that even running backs born well after Brown’s playing days know his greatness.
“Time tells all stories,” Allen said, “and Jim Brown has stood the test of time.”
The Browns produced a thorough tribute to Brown on their team website. Brown retired in 1966 having led the NFL in rushing in eight of his nine seasons, having posted 58 100-yard rushing games and having won four MVP awards. Earlier Wednesday, the Browns announced they’re building a statue of Brown, who still has a paid consulting role with the team.
Brown’s domestic violence incidents were not discussed on the show.
Brown had a career in movies and was active in civil rights movements following his playing career. Now that more NFL players are following Brown’s lead and walking away from the game at a relatively early age, his early retirement was brought up on the show.
“Football was not my life; it’s what I did at the time,” Brown said. “It gave me notoriety.
“In movies…I wanted to be able to break down the barrier of race. I traveled around the world and I didn’t have to get hit anymore. I loved football. It was great for me. It comes back. I’m sitting here with Hall of Famers….I couldn’t have gotten that from movies. Movies are very selfish. Here, there’s no selfishness.
“We have that respect that belongs to us and nobody else. That bond…nobody else has that.”