NFL Network’s “A Football Life: Jim Brown” will be shown Friday (Nov. 11) and Saturday (Nov. 12) at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The one-hour documentary produced by NFL Films tells the life story of the legendary Cleveland Browns fullback turned actor and how he transferred the skills he learned on the field to achieve great success off the field.
Many believe Brown retired at the prime of his career as the film tells of his great football career. The documentary takes a look into Brown’s life and the racial inequality he faced at Syracuse during the 1950s and even after his professional football career came to end and he achieved great success as an entertainer. Numerous individuals speak about Brown and his social activism efforts, particularly Lonnie Ali, the widow of Muhammad Ali, who discusses Brown’s relationship with her late husband. The film also features interviews from Hall of Famers CURTIS MARTIN, EMMITT SMITH, LARRY CSONKA, DICK BUTKUS and MARCUS ALLEN.
Brown was selected by the Browns during the first round (6th overall) of the 1957 NFL Draft out of Syracuse. A unanimous first-team All-American in 1956, Brown’s collegiate accomplishments were merely a glimpse into what he would achieve during his nine seasons with in Cleveland. He was a multisport athlete, earning All-American honors in lacrosse as well as lettering in basketball.
A tremendous all-around player, Brown was unanimously named Rookie of the Year in 1957. That same year, he played in his first of nine consecutive Pro Bowls and was named First-Team All-Pro, an honor bestowed upon eight of his nine seasons (all but 1962) in the NFL. Additionally, he earned the first of three league MVP honors his rookie season (1957-58 and 1965).
During the 1963 season, Brown rushed for a career-high 1,863 yards, which is still a Browns franchise record. He also holds the record for most seasons (8) leading the league in rushing yards (1957-1961, 1963-65). Brown was also the quickest player to reach 100 touchdowns (93 games), a mark surpassed by LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006. He played in three NFL Championship Games (1957, 1964-65), winning one in 1964 against the Baltimore Colts.
Brown finished his career after nine seasons in which he started all 118 games he played. He holds the Browns franchise records with 12,312 rushing yards and 126 combined rushing and receiving touchdowns, as well as NFL records of 104.3 average rushing yards per game, 5.2 rushing yards per attempt. Brown was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1960s, the NFL’s 75th Anniversary Team, and All-Time NFL Team (selected in 2000).
Since Brown’s retirement from football, he has been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, College Football Hall of Fame, and the Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
Brown continues his social activism efforts today, especially the Amer-I-Can Program he started which helps gang members to rehabilitate their lives. As a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Brown did not only exemplify the Hall’s values on the field – commitment, integrity, courage, respect, and excellence – but off the field, as Dr. Harry Edwards captures in his statement from the documentary. “His principal legacy is going to be what he accomplished as a football player. But Jim Brown was not principally a great football player. Jim Brown was a great man who just also happened to play a great game of football,” Edwards states.
Guests visiting the Hall of Fame this weekend will have the opportunity to view “A Football Life: Jim Brown” with the purchase of a museum admission. The hour-long film will run continuously from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday.
With an episode full of people saying he's the greatest of all time, you wonder why it took NFL Network until season six of "A Football Life" to get to Jim Brown.
It took some time for NFL Network to get the green light to tell his story.
"I've done three interviews so far and each one started with the same question. The simplest answer is that Jim just wasn't ready to do it," said NFL Network's Anthony Smith, one of the producers of the episode. "If you know Jim, he doesn't do anything he doesn't want to do. But he was on the list from the start of the series as somebody they wanted to cover."
During a 2015 meeting with Brown at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, his wife, Monique, told Smith that she wanted to do something for Brown's upcoming 80th birthday. That led to a roundtable on NFL Network that included some of the game's greatest running backs discussing Brown's life.
That opened the door to the latest documentary.
The episode delves into Brown's careers in football and acting, as well as his activism. And instead of presenting his life as a resume, the episode explains how his acting career broke barriers, and why he was compelled to take political and social stands during his life.
Also, the episode doesn't shy away from the crimes and accusations that littered Brown's life after football, explaining that "Jim Brown may have been the perfect football player, but he wasn't the perfect man."
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