The Browns put their best foot forward in the first AFC-NFC Pro Bowl, held Jan. 24, 1971 at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
They sent to the game two eventual Pro Football Hall of Famers, running back Leroy Kelly and right guard Gene Hickerson, and a player who was one of the best outside linebackers of his era, Jim Houston.
The completion of the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 changed everything about pro football, including the Pro Bowl.
Instead of the Eastern and Western conferences of the NFL squaring off in the annual all-star game – which had basically been the case since after the 1950 season – the best from the AFC would meet the best from the NFC.
The NFC won this first meeting, 27-6.
In making the next-to-last of his six consecutive Pro Bowl trips, Kelly rushed for a team-high 656 yards and six touchdowns in 1970, and had 24 receptions for two scores.
Hickerson, who had been with the Browns since 1958, and consecutively since 1962, was making the last of his six straight Pro Bowls.
Houston, from Massillon (Ohio) High School and Ohio State, was making the last of his four Pro Bowl trips, equaling the most by a Browns linebacker. He had been the team’s first-round draft choice in the 1960.
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