Jim Brown: NFL great dies aged 87

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Jim Brown, widely considered the most dominant football player of his era and one of the best running backs of all time, has died. He was 87.

A bruising runner who never missed a game, Brown led the NFL in rushing in eight of his nine seasons with the Cleveland Browns and appeared in nine consecutive Pro Bowls. He averaged 104.3 rushing yards per game and remains the only player in league history to average over 100 rushing yards per game for his career.

Brown won the league’s MVP award in 1957, 1958 and 1965. At the time of his retirement in 1966, Brown held the single season rushing record with 1,863 yards and was the career rushing leader with 12, 132 yards. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971 in his first year of eligibility.

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"Jim Brown was a combination of speed and power like nobody who has ever played the game," former NFL player and coach Dick LeBeau told Sports Illustrated in 2015.

"If he got into the secondary, he was so good at setting you up and then making you miss. You just didn't know if you were going to get a big collision or be grabbing at his shoelaces."

Brown became one of the first pro athletes to parlay his fame into notable off-the-field accomplishments and made the transition to acting while still playing for the Browns.

He stunned the sports world by announcing his retirement prior to the 1966 season at 30 years old. Brown went on to appear in over 30 films, including The Dirty Dozen and Ice Station Zebra as well as the blaxploitation movies Slaughter and Three the Hard Way.

While playing a variety of roles, Brown performed with some of the leading stars of the day. He appeared with Raquel Welch in 100 Rifles and was involved in one of the first interracial love scenes.

Overshadowed by his remarkable NFL career, Brown's college career at Syracuse was equally impressive. He was a consensus first-team All-American and finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting in his 1956 senior season after he rushed for 986 yards and 13 touchdowns despite playing only eight games.

Brown, who also excelled in basketball, track and especially lacrosse at Syracuse, was named the greatest college football player of all time by ESPN during a ceremony at the College Football Playoff National Championship Game on January 13, 2020.

Brown was also no stranger to public service. He created the Negro Industrial and Economic Union in the early 1960s to help establish black entrepreneurs and was an activist during the civil rights movement.

He then spent much of his post-NFL career fighting for social justice and change. In 1986 he founded Vital Issues, aimed at teaching life management skills and personal growth techniques to inner-city gang members and prison inmates.

Brown also experienced his share of legal troubles throughout his life and was dogged for years by accusations that he physically abused women.

He was arrested in 1999 following a domestic disturbance with his wife, who accused Brown of making threats towards her. A jury later found Brown guilty of hitting his wife's car with a shovel during the incident. He was fined $1,800 and sentenced to three years' probation and one year of domestic violence counselling.

Brown served as an executive adviser to the Browns from 2005-2010 and was named a special adviser to the team in 2013.

He is survived by his four children, as well as his first wife, Sue Jones, and second wife, Monique.