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Considered by many the greatest running back in history, Jim Brown was also an exceptional all-around athlete. As a teen-ager, he turned down an offer to play baseball in the New York Yankee organization and, after graduating from Syracuse University, he turned down $150,000 to become a professional fighter. While in high school, he once jogged over from a pre-game lacrosse to win the high jump in a track meet.
In his senior year in high school in Manhasset, Long Island, he averaged 38 points a game in basketball and 14.9 yards per carry as a football player. He was an All-American in both lacrosse and football and he also started at center in basketball for three years at Syracuse. In his last regular season football game, he scored 43 points against Colgate, and he had 21 in Syracuse's 28-27 loss to Texas Christian in the 1957 Cotton Bowl.
Brown joined the NFL's Cleveland Browns in 1957 and was named rookie of the year after gaining 942 yards on 202 carries. He set a single-game record of 237 yards against the Los Angeles Rams, scoring 4 touchdowns, that season.
During the next eight seasons, Brown rushed for more than 1,000 yards seven times, falling short by only 4 yards in 1962. He led the league in rushing every season he played except 1962, when he was edged out by Jim Taylor of the Green Bay Packers. Brown also led in rushing touchdowns from 1957 through 1959, in 1963, and in 1965.
The 6-foot-2, 228-pounder had sprinter speed and elusive moves. While he rarely ran over an opponent, he had the power to break through off-balance tackles set up by his cutting ability. An all-pro from 1957 through 1961 and from 1963 through 1965, Brown was named the UPI player of the year in 1958, 1963, and 1965.
While making a movie during the summer of 1966, Brown made the surprising announcement that he was retiring from football to concentrate on acting. He was just thirty years old. In his 8 seasons, he rushed 2,359 times for 12,312 yards, a 5.2 average, and rushed for 106 touchdowns. He also caught 262 passes for 2,499 yards and 20 touchdowns and returned 29 kickoffs for 648 yards, a 22.3 average.
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