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Nick Chubb cherishes 'blessing' to follow in Jim Brown's footsteps

Chubb recalled a memory of Brown praising his tape before he was drafted by the Browns in 2018 and vows to play for Brown after his passing


Before Nick Chubb was drafted by the Browns in 2018, then-general manager John Dorsey sent franchise icon Jim Brown the college tape of Chubb, a highly-rated running back out of Georgia who was high on the Browns' radar.

After watching the film, Brown was high on Chubb, too. He sent Dorsey back an emphatic approval of Chubb, confirming the Browns' beliefs that, if they pick Chubb, they were selecting a runner capable of producing the same bruising plays and electric speed Brown brought to the franchise for nine years. 

That story resonated with Chubb more than ever after he learned of the passing of Brown, who passed away on May 18 at age 87.

"Joe Sheehan (Browns Senior VP of Player Health & Development) has been telling me that story since I got here," Chubb said. "I never believed him until I got a text from Dorsey telling me that it was true after he passed away. Just hearing that, it was a blessing. He saw something in me, and it's special."

Chubb has certainly become the NFL running back Brown envisioned when he turned on his tape.

Through five seasons, Chubb has already risen to fourth on the franchise's all-time rushing leaderboard. He's still 5,971 yards away from Brown, who led the NFL in rushing in all but one of his years in the league.

Despite the big gap, Chubb has replicated Brown's success in several accolades, such as joining Brown as the second running back in franchise history to have 1,525 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns in a season, which Chubb achieved in 2022. Brown, meanwhile, reached those plateaus three times in his career.

Chubb is also just 122 yards separated from Brown in rushing yards through their first five seasons. His 6,341 career rushing yards is second only to Brown (6,463) through the first five seasons among all Browns running backs.

"I know it's a big gap between when he played and where I'm playing now," Chubb said. "What he did stood for a long time — the yards, the stats, only in nine years — so it's unbelievable what he was able to do in those in just nine years. It's crazy."

If Chubb continues his pace and extends his career in Cleveland, the gap to Brown will only continue to close in quick fashion. Does Chubb believe he could pass Brown on the franchise leaderboard?

"Who knows?" he said. "Anything can happen. I like to take it one day at a time, not look too far ahead. But yes, we'll see."

To his teammates, the feat certainly feels possible, and they're all rooting for him to reach it.

"When we're watching that video today, I was like — in the most respectful way possible — (saying) Jim Brown looks like Nick Chubb got thrown back into like 1960 and is running against these guys," guard Joel Bitonio said. "How athletic and strong and fast he was, but no, they are two great running backs. I know Nick will tell you we want to try and get wins any way possible, but anything we can do to help him out is a bonus."

The record remains far from Chubb's mind as he prepares for Year 6.

At the front of it, though, are memories with a legend who stood for much more than football.

Chubb felt fortunate to talk with Brown a few times since the team heeded his praise and drafted Chubb with the 35th overall pick in 2018, and the conversations between him and Brown after he was drafted often had nothing to do with football.

"The most impactful thing (I learned from him) is probably just stand for what you believe in," Chubb said. "He was a strong man. He stood for a lot of things, and he was himself. I think that's the biggest thing I take from him. Just always be true to yourself.

Chubb will keep those memories in mind as he prepares to live up to Brown's effusive scouting report for his sixth season and beyond.

"I'm definitely playing for him from here on out," he said.

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