Born on February 17, 1936, James Nathaniel Brown grew up off the southern coast of Georgia without a father who left the family when Brown was only two weeks old. After his mother left to take up a job in New York, the young child was brought up by his great-grandmother. At eight years of age, Jim Brown shifted to New York to live with his mother.
Changing towns proved to be beneficial for Brown as he joined Manhasset High School and thrived on the football field from the beginning. Even though he remained actively involved in basketball, lacrosse and track, football continued to be the athlete’s strongest area.
Acquiring the position of a running back, Brown averaged 14.9 yards per carry and earned himself a spot at Syracuse University. Brown eventually earned nationwide attention for his strong play and brought his career as a college player to an end with a total of six touchdowns and a rush of 197 yards.
In 1957, Brown got chosen by the Cleveland Browns in the National Football League draft and adjusted well to the new environment, leading the league by rushing 942 yards and eventually capturing the honour of Rookie of the Year. In the seasons that followed, Brown only continued to progress and soon became the standard-bearer for all NFL running backs. Showcasing outstanding speed, Brown scored remarkable season totals over various seasons including 1,527 yards in 1958, 1,863 yards in 1963 and 1,544 yards in 1965. The only year which slowed down Brown’s fast moving career was 1962 during which he rushed for only 996 yards and was unsuccessful in leading the league.
Shocking news awaited Brown’s fans in 1966 when he unexpectedly announced his retirement from the game after a short but victorious career.
Leaving football behind, the 30 year old wished to switch his focus to a movie career while critics waited for him to return to the game. Proving all doubts wrong, the former player moved on to appear in more than 30 films over the years, some of which include The Dirty Dozen, 100 Rifles and Any Given Sunday.
However, Brown did not stay away from trouble or maintain a completely clean image. Catching up to his previous accusations of assault, the actor was blamed of throwing off his girlfriend off a balcony in 1968. The following year, he faced more charges of assaulting a man after a traffic accident.
Providing more deviation to his occupations, Brown became a supporter of African-American causes and helped create the Negro Industrial Economic Union. In the late 1980s, he initiated the Amer-I-Can program, aiming to turn the lives around of young gang members. He also criticized other athletes, such as Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson, for not being better role models for younger black athletes.
Even though Jim Brown’s life experienced some bumps along the way during his adulthood, he devoted all of his efforts into portraying versatility and skill together. His contribution to the field of football was recognized and applauded once more in 1971 when he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.