The Browns in 2021 will induct two players into their Legends program whose memorable careers impacted two different generations in the team's 75-year history.
Linebacker D'Qwell Jackson and the late quarterback Bill Nelsen will be honored Week 3 (Sept. 26), when the Browns host the Bears at FirstEnergy Stadium. They'll be joined by 2020 Legends Josh Cribbs and Webster Slaughter, who were unable to be properly honored last season. More details will be released in the coming months.
"We are always honored to recognize Browns alumni who mean so much to our organization and fans, and it is even more special this year as we have the opportunity to do it throughout our 75th anniversary season," said Dee and Jimmy Haslam. "After not being able to host the event in 2020, we greatly look forward to 2021 Alumni Weekend, when we will induct four deserving men – D'Qwell Jackson, Bill Nelsen, Webster Slaughter and Josh Cribbs – into our Legends program as we celebrate them and all of our alumni's achievements and commitment to the Browns."
Jackson starred as a top tackler and leader in the middle of Cleveland's defense from 2006-2013. The second-round selection out of the University of Maryland took on a role as an every-game starter immediately, starting 13 games as a rookie and finishing his Cleveland career with 96 starts in 97 games. Jackson cleared the century mark in tackles in five of his seven on-field seasons with the Browns, including an NFL-best 154 in 2008 and a career-high 158 — second-best in the NFL — in 2011.
Jackson suffered a season-ending shoulder injury midway through 2009 and suffered a setback in his recovery, keeping him off the field until 2011. He returned with a vengeance and had arguably his best season with the Browns. Shortly thereafter, Jackson was rewarded with a long-term contract that ensured he would spend the bulk of his NFL career in Cleveland.
All told, Jackson finished his Browns career with 532 tackles, eight interceptions, a touchdown and five forced fumbles. He wrapped up his career in Indianapolis, where he started 44 games and added another 366 tackles over three seasons (2014-16).
"It's a blessing to receive such a great honor," Jackson said. "It's very humbling and rewarding and all these different things I can't even put in words to express how excited and appreciative I am.
"I was a young man when I was drafted but I matured there. I met a lot of great people, some of them are still there and I try to keep in touch with them as much as possible."
On top of his accolades on the field, Jackson was a pillar in the community for all of the work he did away from the field. He was honored by the team multiple times throughout his career, including the Ed Block Courage Award (2011), Salute to Service Award (2013), Pro Football Writers of America Dino Lucarelli "Good Guy" Award (2012) and PFWA Joe Thomas Award - Player of the Year (2012).
"Even during my time in Indy, I would say the best fans in the league are with the Cleveland Browns," Jackson said. "You just feel that energy, from the moment I was drafted until the moment I left.
"I know now I'm not wearing the helmet, I'm not playing for the organization but I'm still a Brown and will always be a Brown. If they're winning, I'm winning. If they're losing, I'm losing and feeling it. I'm just excited to be a part of it and it makes it all that sweeter."
Nelsen joined the Browns in 1968 after spending his first five seasons with the Steelers. Acquired in a trade, Nelsen began his Cleveland career as a backup before taking over as the starter just a few games into the season. He held onto the job for the next four seasons, throwing for 9,584 yards and 71 touchdowns in 54 games (50 starts) and earning Pro Bowl recognition in 1969. He ranks eighth in Browns history in pass attempts (1,314), seventh in completions (689), seventh in yards (9,725) and sixth in touchdowns (71).
Nelsen, who resided in Orlando during the final years of his retirement from football, passed away in 2019 at the age of 78.
The Cleveland Browns organization honors the men who have contributed to the success of the Browns organization. The Legends Program started in 2001 with the automatic induction of the Browns' then Pro Football Hall of Famers along with the initial class of five other inductees. An eight-person selection panel chooses the players to be honored. The team has named two Legends per season since 2010 with the exception of 2019, when it did not name any and instead honored Otto Graham with a statue outside of FirstEnergy Stadium and inducted Clay Matthews into the Ring of Honor.
To qualify as a Browns Legend, the players must have played for the team for at least five years, been a major contributor at their respective position and been retired from the NFL for at least five years.