If yesterday was Presidents Day, can we officially dub February 17 as GOAT Day? It seems fitting, since it’s the birthday of both Michael Jordan and Jim Brown. For Syracuse University, Jim Brown was the man who really put the team on the map, and who began the legend of 44. The original 44 turns 79 years old today, and to this day still has to be considered not just one of the greatest football players, but greatest athletes to have ever lived.
When he suited up for the Orangemen from 1954-1956, the bruising, 6-foot-2 running back from Manhasset, New York, set numerous rushing records and, it could and has been argued should have won the Heisman Trophy in 1956, when he earned All-America honors after rushing for 986 yards and 13 touchdowns on just 158 carries. Somehow, he finished just fifth in Heisman voting that year.
In his three seasons with the Orangemen, Brown rushed for 2,091 yards and 24 touchdowns, while averaging an astonishing 5.8 yards per carry. He also starred on defense, making eight career interceptions as a member of the Syracuse secondary.
Of course, Brown’s athletic achievements didn’t end with the gridiron. Many, including the late, great sportswriter Dick Schaap, have called Brown the greatest lacrosse player of all-time. Schaap would know, too – he played goalkeeper for Cornell during that era. In honor of Jim Brown’s birthday, check out this CBS video from 1991:
Brown also lettered in basketball and track while at Syracuse, and is the only athlete in history to be a member of the College Football, Pro Football, and Lacrosse Halls of Fame. After leaving Syracuse, he starred for the Cleveland Browns, putting together one of the greatest careers in pro football history. He made nine straight Pro Bowls before abruptly retiring after nine seasons in order to – and this is the absolute truth – pursue a film career beginning with a role in The Dirty Dozen. The story goes that Art Modell demanded that Brown be in training camp with the rest of the team, but The Dirty Dozen was going to be filming until September, and Brown didn’t like being told what to do…so he chose to retire from football instead.
Happy birthday to the original 44, the one and only Jim Brown.