WESTLAKE —** Sashi Brown remembers watching the likes of Earnest Byner and Hanford Dixon as a youngster growing up in Boston. It was legendary players like them, he said, that helped him cultivate an affinity and appreciation for the team nestled on the shore of Lake Erie.
Now as Cleveland's executive vice president of football operations years later, Brown addressed a handful of his childhood heroes Tuesday morning at the seventh-annual Alumni Golf Tournament.
"Many of you all really laid the foundation for my love for this game," Brown said, "and my passion for really rebuilding this franchise and returning it to a championship organization."
Brown spoke to roughly 30 former players — including Jim Brown, Byner, Dixon, Reggie Langhorne, Dick Ambrose, Don Cockroft and Kevin Mack — at the Lakewood Country Club in what was something of a family reunion as they hugged, posed for photos and swapped stories.
"For us, they really are a big part of our family and what we do," Brown said.
The golf outing is part of the Browns' annual Alumni Weekend, where players stationed locally and from afar return to Cleveland for a host of events. On Saturday, they'll partake in a Legends Induction Dinner, where former players Bernie Parrish and Tony Adamle will be honored. Sunday's game will feature a presentation for the duo at halftime.
"It's just love," Byner said. "We get a chance to see each other, somewhat reminisce and catch up on each other's lives and see what's happening. It feels good."
"This is what I really look forward to because obviously we get a chance to get together with a lot of guys that we haven't seen for a long, long time and it's just so exciting." Dixon added. "I wouldn't miss it for anything."
And Brown, who hosted an open discussion regarding the state of the franchisse, was a welcomed addition to the morning.
"It's something that's really good that shows a level of respect for the things that have been foundational for the team," Byner said.
"I like Sashi, I really do," Dixon added. "I like his vision and like the direction he's taking the team."
Brown, who stressed the importance of honoring Cleveland's alumni, said they connect the present to the past.
"They're the foundation for why our team is so great," he said, "and our brand — the history of our team — are them, are literally them. So it's important for us to take the time and we love having them back. It's a special weekend for us."