The NFL Hall of Famer was selected for the Pro Bowl each of his nine seasons in the league
Jim Brown, the iconic Cleveland Browns legend considered to be one of the best to ever play the game, died Thursday at age 87.
His wife of 26 years, Monique Brown, shared the news on Instagram Friday afternoon.
"It is with profound sadness that I announce the passing of my husband, Jim Brown," she wrote. "He passed peacefully last night in our LA home. To the world, he was an activist, actor and football star. To our family, he was a loving and wonderful husband, father and grandfather. Our hearts are broken..."
Brown — born Feb. 17, 1936, on St. Simons Island off the Georgia coast — was selected by Cleveland with the No. 1 pick in the 1957 NFL draft out of Syracuse University, where he played football and lacrosse.
The 6-foot-2 fullback made an immediate impact in Cleveland and was unanimously named Rookie of the Year in 1957 thanks to an impressive first year.
With the help of Brown, Cleveland won the NFL championship in 1964, beating the Baltimore Colts 27-0.
"There is only one player in the game today whose ability on-field commands almost universal admiration, and that is Jimmy Brown," a Time magazine article published the following year reportedly described Brown, according to Sports Illustrated.
Brown would go on to add three league MVP honors (1957, 1958, and 1965) to his resume before stepping away from the league after nine seasons at the age of 30 in 1966.
Controversially, Brown announced his retirement in London while on the set of The Dirty Dozen, the classic war film also starring Charles Bronson and Donald Sutherland. It was a decision that sent shockwaves through the NFL, as Brown had just earned his third MVP award.
But with the film facing delays, it appeared Brown would not be done filming before the start of the season, according to The Undefeated.
This prompted Browns owner Art Modell to issue a lengthy letter announcing that any player who arrived late to training camp would be suspended without pay.
Brown, in turn, responded with his own letter:
"Dear Art: I am writing to inform you that in the next few days I will be announcing my retirement from Football," Brown wrote to Modell, in part, on July 5, 1966. "This decision is final and is made only because of the future that I desire for myself, my family, and if not to sound corner, my race."
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"I am taking on a few projects that are very interesting to me," Brown explained. "I have many problems to solve at this time and I am sure you know a lot of them, so if we weigh the situation properly the 'Browns' have really nothing to lose, but Jim Brown has a lot to lose. I am taking it for granted that I have your understanding and best wishes, for in my public approach to this matter this will be the attitude that will prevail."
Brown was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971, and his No. 32 jersey was later retired by the Browns.
He later published his autobiography, Jim Brown Out of Bounds, in September 1989, and starred in more than 50 films and television episodes.
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