The first time I was given a football, it was just a natural thing. To caress it, hold it in my hand, to emulate being a running back — it goes back to my childhood.
I looked at everything as competition. I was a decathlete: 10 events, man. I’d dig a high jumping pit in my backyard. I could tell you every baseball player at the time, because I liked baseball.
Today, I can tell you the characteristics of all the running backs in the NFL. I can give you a rundown on what they have and what they don’t have.
There’s no one time for my love of the game. That’s why to be out here now with the Browns, it’s thrilling. The possibilities are so great. To think that I may have just a little bit to do with a team winning a championship or a player doing something I told him to do and seeing that player become successful, is so fulfilling.
When I played here in Cleveland, race was a major factor. America was breaking through a lot of those barriers. We had a lot of dignity, a lot of character, a lot of pride. Being a team that we all could work together and put race to the back of the bus was huge. It was a wonderful time that I enjoyed thoroughly.
There was a marriage between the linemen and myself. Had nothing to do with the coaches, or the plays that they called. We did our own thing. It was like being a locomotive and a cheetah all wrapped up in one. We’d outrun everything and run over everything else. And it wasn’t me, it was me and my linemen. I’d ask them for a little more speed, and they’d give it to me. They’d reach down and come out of that stance and turn that corner and go down field. Here we come BABY!
When it comes to me and the fans, that’s more special than anything for me at my age. They have a new thing that they do now, where they say they feel honored to shake my hand. I’m thinking, You feel “honored?” That’s a helluva word, ya know? I’m 77 years old. So you can’t imagine how good it feels to have these people come up and say things like that and truly mean it.
There is nothing like the thing we have on this football field. The respect and love we have for each other, the understanding of the difficulties to be one of us. So when you are in that fraternity, you are respected by those in the fraternity. And no one can challenge it, come close to understanding it. It just belongs to us. That camaraderie will always be a part of whom I am. — as told to Andre Knott