Born on February 17, 1936, on St. Simons Island in Georgia, Jim Brown was an All-American athlete who went on to play for the Cleveland Browns as a star running back, setting records and being elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He retired in 1967 to focus on acting, with roles in films like The Dirty Dozen, Ice Station Zebra and Kenner. He’s later focused on black business empowerment.
Born February 17, 1936, on St. Simons Island, off the southern coast of Georgia, James Nathaniel Brown experienced a childhood shaped by struggle. He was just two weeks old when his father abandoned the family. His mother soon departed from his life as well, taking a job as a maid in Manhasset, New York, and leaving the care of her young son in the hands of Brown’s great-grandmother.
Brown was 8 years old when his mother finally sent for him to come live with her in New York. In his new home, Brown did well, thriving on the football field for the largely white Manhasset High School. During his senior year, the young running back averaged an astonishing 14.9 yards per carry, more than good enough to earn him a spot at Syracuse University.
In college, Brown dominated the competition, both on the football field and on the basketball court. He also ran track and was a talented lacrosse player.
As a running back, Brown earned national attention for his strong, explosive play. In the final regular-season game of his senior year, Brown capped off his college career by rushing for 197 yards, scoring six touchdowns and kicking seven extra points.
In 1957 the Cleveland Browns selected Brown with the sixth overall pick in the National Football League draft. Brown wasted little time adjusting to the new competition, leading the league in rushing yards with 942 on his way to capturing the league’s Rookie of the Year honors.