Robert E. Jackson adresses the crowd at Saturday's Cleveland Browns Legends Ceremony.
It was 1975. The Bee Gees were on the radio. Gerald Ford was President. Cleveland had no idea, but they were about to obtain one of the best guard's in franchise history.
Browns rookie offensive lineman Robert E. Jackson was driving on his way to training camp from his home state of North Carolina. The NFL draft in 1975 had 17 rounds. Not one team thought Jackson was worthy of a phone call on draft day, let alone a contract.
Cleveland saw some athletic ability in the versatile offensive lineman from Duke. Still, they mostly thought they were bringing him in for training camp to be a practice body. Jackson remembers earning $200 a week during the sweltering two-a-day heat of an Ohio summer. When final cuts came in, there was no pink slip in locker.
"I was just elated to make the team," said Jackson.
Unfathomably, three months later, Jackson was starting at right guard. He didn't let go of the position for 11 straight seasons, only missing two games in his entire career.
Ask Robert Jackson to describe himself as a player, and he won't.
"It was never about any one of us individually," Jackson said. "We were a group. A smart, athletic, adaptable group. We never were known as a physical bunch that overpowered people, but we worked together."
Jackson bridged two different eras playing from 1975 – 1985, blocking next to other Cleveland Browns legends inductees, Doug Dieken (2006), Cody Risien (2010) Tom DeLeone (2011) and Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe DeLamielleure (2003).
The Browns' group mentality in the 1970s and 80s wasn't just on the field. Jackson was known as the leader who would get 20-30 different teammates and their wives together at restaurants, movie theatres and bowling leagues.
"He made every teammate feel welcome," said Dieken. "Nobody enjoyed playing for the Browns more than Robert Jackson did."
"Everybody truly liked each other," said Jackson. "We were very close and we still remain very close."
Dieken's favorite Jackson story happened during the very last game of the 1983 season. The Pittsburgh Steelers were in town and on an unfortunate play, Jackson ended up breaking his ankle. On the ride in the ambulance to the hospital, Jackson asked the driver if they could stop at PJ McIntyre's Irish Pub, so Jackson could get a six-pack of beer to numb the pain.
Jackson was so into the team bonding aspect of the NFL, he had the Browns give him an X amount of money in his contract so he could host a golf tournament for players and members of the front office.
Nothing to Jackson will ever be as memorable as the 1980 Browns season. Known to Cleveland and the rest of the NFL as the "Kardiac Kids" because of how many games went down to the final seconds, he 1980 Browns also featured the NFL coach of the year, Sam Rutigliano, and the NFL's MVP, quarterback Brian Sipe.
The Kardiac Kids produced the first playoff berth in Cleveland for the first time in nine seasons. Although they lost to the Raiders in the first round, the 1980 season is revered by Browns fans as possibly the most entertaining in franchise history.
In particular, it was Sipe who made the Browns the well-respected team.
"We really just adopted his dynamic personality," said Jackson. "We went into every game knowing we could win it with Brian Sipe as our quarterback.
To this day, Jackson still has hatred for the Steelers. Jackson blocked Pittsburgh Hall of Fame defensive tackle Joe Greene nearly every time the teams met. Jackson and Greene never spoke a word.
"Not a hi, a good-bye, a see you next time," said Jackson. "We truly did not like the Steelers and they did not like us. Years later at a function is when I truly met Joe Greene for the first time.
"Football has always been number one in Cleveland," Jackson continued. "The Indians and Cavs are great organizations. But this city wants football to win in the worst way. Every year there's optimism. People here just love their football."
That intensity, that dependability and true love for the city of Cleveland is what Browns fans will always remember about Robert Jackson.
In his ten seasons with the Browns, Milt Morin helped to revolutionize the position of tight end in the NFL with his combination of size, speed and ability to catch the football.
At 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, Morin truly was one of a kind. Tight ends in the NFL at the time who possessed Morin's size were essentially only blockers. Pass-catching tight ends weighed closer to 180 pounds than they did 240. Compared to a wolly mammoth by some teammates because of his beastly size, Morin was truly before his time.
Morin played from 1966 – 1975, ranking among the team's top ten in receiving yards (4,208) and receptions (271) and until the immergence of Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome, he was regarded the greatest Browns tight end of all-time.
"When I catch the ball in the middle of the field, I try and make it a physical thing," said Morin in the 1974 media guide.
On November 24, 1968, against the Philadelphia Eagles, Morin caught an 87-yard pass from Bill Nelson that stood as a team record for 21 seasons. The way he made big plays at the right time was an offensive weapon Cleveland lacked for seasons after his retirement.
Playing in an era where the NFL wasn't a 12-month gig, Morin worked the offseason as an assistant at a local prison. He was also a storied athlete at the University of Massachusetts, lettering in lacrosse in addition to wrestling and playing football.
Morin died unexpectedly of a heart attack in 2010. He is mourned and missed by the Browns football family all the time and his selection as a Legend Inductee is a small token for all he gave to the organization.