On This Date in Sports July 14, 1966: Brown Out

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From a movie set in London, Jim Brown announces his retirement from the NFL at the age of 30. In a nine-year career with the Cleveland Browns, Brown led the NFL in rushing eight times and retired as the NFL’s all-time leading rusher with 12,312 yards. Jim Brown had one year remaining on his contract but chose to retire and pursue a career in acting.


Born February 17, 1936, in St. Simmons, Georgia, Jim Brown was raised in Manhasset on Long Island, where he shattered New York scholastic records in multiple sports. In college at Syracuse Brown continued his dominance especially in lacrosse where some say he may have been one of the best lacrosse in the history of the NCAA. On the football field, he was one of the top rushers in 1956, rushing for 986 yards in eight games with 14 touchdowns as he finished fifth in Heisman voting.

Drafted sixth by the Cleveland Browns in 1957, Jim Brown hit NFL by storm, leading the league 942 yards as he was named NFL MVP with the Browns playing in the NFL Championship Game. Brown would repeat as MVP in 1958 as he again led the league in rushing with 1,527 yards and 17 touchdowns. Jim Brown made the Pro-Bowl Roster in each of his nine NFL seasons and was named an All-Pro in eight of nine seasons, the lone exception being 1962, which was also the only season he did not win the rushing title, finishing fourth with 996 yards in 14 games.

As people began to wonder if Jim Brown was fading after failing to rush for 1,000 yards, he responded with his finest season, rushing for a single-season record 1,863 yards, which would stand as the standard barrier for a decade. The following season, Brown became the first NFL rusher to surpass 10,000 yards for his career, as he led Cleveland to an NFL Championship. The Browns also played for the NFL Championship in 1965, losing to the Green Bay Packers. That season, Jim Brown won his third MVP award, with 1,544 yards with 17 touchdowns.

After the 1965 season, Jim Brown was offered a film role in the World War II Drama, “Dirty Dozen.” With one year left on his contract, Brown had planned to play in 1966, and retire following the season. However, with lucrative offers from Hollywood coming his way he began focusing on life after football. The filming of the movie had gone through several delays, which led to a conflict with the start of training camp for the Cleveland Browns. With the reigning MVP still in Europe filming the movie, Browns Owner Art Modell, said he would fine Brown $1,500 a week until he reported. Not needing to play football anymore Jim Brown responded to the threat by retiring.


At the time of his retirement, Jim Brown was the NFL’s all-time leader in rushing with 12,312 yards and touchdowns with 106. “Dirty Dozen” ended up being a big hit, as the Browns have suffered since. A top tier franchise is one of two teams that existed before 1966 to have never played in a Super Bowl.