HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — **Even among legends, Paul Warfield stood out on a brisk Friday morning as he shook hands and mingled outside of the Stonewater Golf Club's clubhouse in the sixth-annual Cleveland Browns Alumni Golf Outing.
Warfield, the Pro Football Hall of Famer who helped the Browns win the NFL Championship in 1964, was one of roughly 30 former players -- including Jim Brown, Kevin Mack, Earnest Byner, Cleo Miller, Don Cockroft, and Dan Fike -- who attended a spirited event that felt like a big family reunion as they hugged each other, posed for photos and swapped stories.
For Warfield, who played for the Browns from 1964-69 and is considered one of the greatest receivers of all time, coming back to Northeast Ohio is a reminder of how much the club means to him.
"As a youngster I followed the Cleveland Browns and its great tradition … all of my heroes were Marion Motley, Otto Graham and all the way to Jim Brown," said Warfield, who grew up in Warren and currently lives in California.
"When I was in high school, the Cleveland Browns were like another famous professional sports team in baseball — the New York Yankees. The Browns simply won all the time. So naturally I was a big fan and was very fortunate enough to finish in college at Ohio State and be selected by my favorite team and be a part of this tradition.
"So seeing a lot of the players who are of my vintage and my era and having the opportunity to meet some of the younger writers and so forth, I'm very much attached to this organization."
Warfield also shares a sentiment among Browns alums that first-year head coach Hue Jackson seems to have the organization heading in the right direction.
"Well, you know, certainly the Browns are attempting to rebuild their tradition of winning and legacy. I think Hue Jackson is a bright young coach who has excellent credentials, specifically on the offensive of the ball," Warfield said.
"But in addition to that, he's a communicator, which is very important and I think the players will gravitate to his concepts and his ideas … I like what I see in terms of his ability to relate to his players and get that message to them."
Felix Wright, who played safety for Cleveland from 1985-1990, said he and fellow former players have welcomed the way Jackson has embraced the team's alumni and how he involves them with the current Browns.
"I think he's going to be awesome, I think the alumni like about him is he likes the alumni to be around, which is a great thing because we haven't had that in quite some time but I think he's going in the right direction," said Wright, who currently lives in Westlake.
"We've got a lot of young guys who've got to learn to win, learn how to close out games and it could be a tough first year or two, but if we can keep everything together and stick with the plan, it's all about executing the plan and being able to execute that plan and have success and maintain that positive outlook, I think it'll all work out."
With the recent news that Browns quarterback Robert Griffin III will miss at least eight weeks because of a broken bone in his shoulder, Warfield offered a tale of when he helped the 1972 Dolphins become the only undefeated team in NFL history. He thinks it could be beneficial to the current Browns.
"What I learned in my experience with Miami and playing for a great coach down there in Don Shula is that you learn to face adversity and win. And certainly when Miami got on track and they did it in a very short order, but the year that we established the mark in Miami of being undefeated — which is a mark that's historical — we lost our quarterback for 10 games," said Warfield, who won two Super Bowls in Miami.
"We lost our Hall-of-Fame quarterback, Bob Griese, for 10 games, he was out. And fortunately we had the late (former backup quarterback) Earl Morrall who was a magnificent relief pitcher. But you lose a Hall of Fame quarterback? For 10 games? And you win all of those games?
"So the lesson there, as far as I'm concerned is that if your organization is together and I'm sure coach Jackson is building that kind of organization and relating to his players in a way that, we can win whatever the circumstance is."
That, Warfield said, is something he thinks Jackson, the coaching staff and executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown are building in Berea.
"Rebuilding those concepts is going to be the thing. How long that's going to take? Hopefully it's going to occur in a very short period of time .. even though adversity occurs, once you get people to buy in — which is a term you've heard — and people buy into what you're doing and believe in what you're doing you can go big places very fast," he said.
"I think (Hue is) that kind of leadership. He's a bright guy that knows offensive football so I'm very impressed with that and he's got an outstanding defensive coordinator. So you rebuilding the culture is what's going to be needed."