Jim Brown – Running Back
According to many, he is the greatest running back of all-time. Many more would argue that he is the best football player ever – at any position. In fact, a longtime opponent, noting that he was faster than most defensive backs, more powerful than most defensive linemen and linebackers, once described him as "the closest thing there's ever been to Superman on a football field." He even looked the part, being 6-foot-2 and 228 pounds with a 32-inch waist.
The player being referred to is Jim Brown, who played his entire nine-year (1957-65) NFL career with the Browns. In many ways, Brown did for the NFL what Babe Ruth did for major league baseball by putting up such unbelievable statistics that he forever changed the way the game was viewed, and played.
In the 35 seasons (1932-56) before Brown arrived in Cleveland as the No. 6 overall pick in the 1957 NFL Draft, only six times did the league's leading rusher have 1,000 yards or better. Brown shattered all those statistics, getting 1,000 or more in seven of his nine years, including 1,527 in his second season of 1958, 1,329 in '59, 1,257 in 1960 and 1,408 in 1961. When Brown got "only" 996 yards in an injury-riddled 1962 season, his lowest total since he had 942 as a rookie in 1957, and did not win the NFL rushing title for the first – and only – time in his career, there was speculation that he might not have much left. Brown knew better, and after an offseason to heal, he came back fully healthy and quashed those rumors by getting 1,863 yards, breaking his own record set five years before. He finished his career by logging 1,446 yards in 1964, helping the Browns to the NFL title and 1,544 in 1965 as the club advanced to the title game again. When he retired at age 30 and at the top of his game just before the start of training camp in 1966, his 12,312 yards stood as the league record, topping the old mark by 2,589. He also set an NFL record for rushing yards in a game with 237 in 1957 and then tied it in 1961. Brown was an efficient runner, too, making the most of nearly every carry. He averaged 5.2 yards per attempt for his career, including 6.4 in 1963. Five times he led the NFL in rushing touchdowns, a league record, and twice got 17 (in 1958 and 1965), en route to finishing with 106 overall.
And when the Browns needed him most, such as in the 27-0 victory over the Baltimore Colts in the 1964 championship game, he came through, rushing for 114 yards against a defense that limited teams to an average of 128.4 yards per game that year. All this is why Brown was named All-NFL eight times and went to nine Pro Bowls – and why he was, and is, the greatest.
– Steve King