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Players, coaches, alums strive to cherish Browns' 75th anniversary season with even more success

The Browns welcomed their 75th anniversary with a Browns Live that featured several special guests who all echoed the same goal for 2021

The achievements and special moments of the Browns' 2020 season will be remembered throughout Cleveland for years to come, but the triumphs of the season were impossible to fully embrace without looking back at the franchise's rich and storied history.

That message was the theme of a special edition of "Browns Live" from the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton to welcome in the Browns' 75th anniversary, which is guaranteed to be special as the Browns strive to build on their unforgettable 2020 season while remembering the people, games and memories that have defined the franchise.

Special guests such as head coach Kevin Stefanski, cornerback Denzel Ward, legendary alumnus Hanford Dixon, Peter King from NBC Sports and a trio of special offensive linemen — Joe Thomas, Doug Dieken and Jedrick Wills Jr. — all joined the show to reflect on Browns history and share the same message for the 75th anniversary: After a special 2020 season, the franchise wants more.

"I'm really proud of our guys for what we accomplished last year," Stefanski said in his interview with Nathan Zegura and Jim Donovan, who narrated the show. "But you don't pick up where you left off every year. It's going to be really important to understand that. We understand there's a whole lot of work to do."

Stefanski rarely seized an opportunity to look back at the history of the Browns during the 2020 season. The past didn't matter to him — he wanted players and coaches to focus solely on the next game — but he and the rest of the Browns captured a new level of trust and admiration from the city as they battled their way back to the playoffs. 

Each win brought back memories from seasons that only older generations of Browns fans will remember. The Jim Brown era and thrilling playoff seasons from the 1970s and 80s will never fade from the franchise's memory. Neither will 2020.

All of those triumphs will be recognized in several forms in 2021. For current players and coaches, however, the goal is to commemorate the anniversary with another trip to the playoffs and ensure Cleveland will have another season to celebrate.

"I think we'll definitely grow," Ward said. "We've got a good foundation and a lot of good players. I'm sure coach is going to bring us some more good players in the draft and free agency, so we're going to bring it in and build upon what we've got already."

This time last year, the Browns were in a similar spot and aimed to bring in all of the talent needed to snap out of nearly two decades of painful, playoff-less seasons.

Wills, who was their 2020 first-round pick, was one of many players who immediately pitched in. He excelled alongside one of the best offensive lines in the league at left tackle, a position he transitioned to after primarily playing right tackle at Alabama, and filled a hole the Browns struggled to replace following the legendary career of Thomas, who retired in 2017 and should become the 18th former Browns player to own a bust in Canton in 2023.

"I was ready for the challenge," Wills said, "but I knew it was going to be something like I've never experienced before. It was day in and day out and learning the position. Just improving week in and week out and going into those little details because I feel like once you kind of get the hang of it, it becomes a routine job where you can just hone into what you're doing and execute."

Wills, Stefanski and Ward all have opportunities to further solidify their legacies in Cleveland if they continue to build on their success. That's no easy challenge, though, and not many former Browns players know that better than Dixon, who played with the Browns from 1981-1989 and was a key player among one of the most successful eras in team history.

"(This city) is very special," Dixon said. "Boy, we played hard, and I'll tell you that the fans are the best fans of any team in the world.

"I just hate that we didn't get to the Super Bowl."

That's the goal of the Browns for this season and beyond. Stefanski said it himself earlier in the show, and he's confident his team can make another run. The stage for 2021 couldn't be more prepared for that, and the celebrations of the history of the franchise will continue from now until the end of the year.

But the best way to commemorate the anniversary will come by bringing back even more success to the city of Cleveland.

"I can promise you," Stefanski said, "that our goals will be about that every year."

Check out the best 100 photos from this season by the Browns photo team