When Ray Prisby opened the door to his home and saw Cleveland Browns legend Jim Brown standing there in his gold Hall of Fame jacket, he was stunned.
“I froze for like a brief second, and then I turned into a 12-year-old,” Prisby said. “It was like, I wanted to say something. I wanted to move.”
Of course, the reaction is understandable. But the reason for the visit nearly a month ago is anything but ordinary.
Brown was there to nominate Prisby, a lifelong Cleveland Browns superfan, into the Ford Hall of Fans.
“This is a fan award,” Prisby said. “If I’m blessed to win it, it’s for the Dawg Pound. It’s for Browns nation, Browns universe, the city of Cleveland, the city of Youngstown, anybody that ever wore orange and brown — but not Cincinnati Bengals fans.
“It’s a great honor. If I win it, it’s for the fans.”
The Hall of Fans, a program now in its third year, honors the most dedicated NFL fans across the country.
The winners will get a trip to Super Bowl LV and an all new Ford F-150, and will be honored at the Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony later this year. Prisby is one of six nominees, along with Cowboys fan Jamie O’Pelt, Raiders fan Wayne Marby, Cardinals fan Kristi Brown, Steelers fan Justin Laveing and Ravens fan Tony Roccograndi. Voting is now open and running through the end of the month.
Question the validity selection process all you want — nobody from the Bills Mafia made the cut, for example — but there’s no doubting Prisby’s spot on the list. All one has to do is step foot into his home, or rather the museum he’s built that includes a spare bedroom for him to sleep in, to figure that out.
Prisby’s Youngstown, Ohio, home is full — completely full — of Browns memorabilia. Signed photos, cards, jerseys and more line the walls from floor to ceiling. His collection, something the Air Force veteran has been working on since 1961, is so thorough that the Browns actually approached him for help filling their own museum.
He even had a full room dedicated completely to Brown, who he credits for his fandom. Prisby said Brown even learned a few things about his career in the room.
“I was explaining stuff to [Brown’s wife, Monique], because I figured she didn’t know a lot of the history, but he was sitting there like, ‘I don’t even remember that either,’” Prisby said. “It was kind of cool because I was going over stuff that he didn’t even remember, and they ended up in this room for like 20 minutes just going over and reminiscing stuff. It was the highlight.”
Nominated before Browns’ first playoff game in 18 years
The timing of Prisby’s nomination couldn’t be better. Or worse, considering the Browns are dealing with a brutal COVID-19 outbreak just days before their first playoff game in nearly two decades.
Several players, assistants and head coach Kevin Stefanski will have to miss Cleveland’s wild-card matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday after testing positive for the coronavirus.
Still, Prisby isn’t letting that news get him down — especially since just two years ago the team went 0-16.
“It’s been a long time coming. It’s like we’ve been in the desert for 20 years and we finally came out on the other side and we’re getting a cool drink of water,” Prisby said. “I’m taking it all in.”
Still, even with their coronavirus issues, Prisby has the Browns sneaking out a three-point win in Pittsburgh on Saturday.
“I’m going in eyes wide open, and hoping for the best,” Prisby said.
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