The past, present and future of the Browns all came together exactly 50 years ago today, on Nov. 25, 1962, to lead the team to a 35-14 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers before 53,601 fans at Cleveland Stadium.
The past materialized in the form of wide receiver Ray Renfro. In the next-to-last season of his brilliant, 12-year career, the Cleveland Browns Legend caught three passes for 78 yards, including a 31-yarder for a touchdown.
The present was provided by Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Brown. Having already established himself as the greatest running back of all time and one of the greatest players overall at any position, he added to his legacy by rushing 19 times for 110 yards and two touchdowns. He had three scores in all on the day, as he also caught a 34-yard scoring pass.
Brown had five receptions overall, tying for the team lead. He ended up being the club’s top pass catcher that year with 47.
And the future was represented by quarterback Frank Ryan and rookie wide receiver Gary Collins, who combined for a 12-yard touchdown pass.
The Browns were looking for a quarterback, and Ryan, who was in his first year with the team after arriving from the Los Angeles Rams in a trade, made a strong case for the job by throwing for three touchdowns in all. He completed 21 of 33 passes for 284 yards, a huge total for that time considering the rules favoring defensive backs. He did not throw an interception.
Collins, the team’s first-round pick in the 1962 NFL Draft out of Maryland, was trying to establish himself as Cleveland’s top wide receiver. He helped that effort by having three catches overall for 37 yards.
The Browns amassed 418 total yards, their second-highest total of the season.
The win, their second in a row, lifted the Browns’ record to 6-4-1 and allowed them to sweep the season series from the Steelers (6-5) following a 41-14 victory at Pitt Stadium a month earlier.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Browns led 14-0 at halftime on Ryan’s touchdown passes to Collins and Brown.
A 15-yard scoring run by Pittsburgh’s Joe Womack in the third quarter cut the lead to 14-7.
The Browns then cut loose in the fourth quarter, cementing the victory by getting three touchdowns on Ryan’s pass to Renfro and a pair of one-yard runs by Brown. That was sandwiched around a six-yard scoring run by the Steelers’ John Henry Johnson.
Ryan took over as the full-time starter in 1963 and threw 25 scoring passes. Also that season, Collins set a team record -- since broken -- with 13 scoring catches and Brown established an NFL mark with 1,863 yards rushing.
The following year, in 1964, Ryan, Collins and Brown helped lead the Browns to the NFL championship. Ryan, who topped the league in touchdown passes that season with 25, hit Collins with three scores and Brown rushed for 114 yards in a 27-0- victory over the Baltimore Colts.
This Day in Browns History is presented by Cleveland Clinic.