I was maybe 9 or 10 years old, and we used to play sandlot football in the street. We would start watching football on TV, and after the games we would always pick straws. Whoever got the longest straw got to pick the star of that game.
One of those games, the Browns were playing, and Jim Brown ran a sweep to the right. When he got to the sideline, instead of running out of bounds, he turned upfield, lowered his shoulder, and he broke a tackle of about three guys. He went on for a touchdown.
So when we got outside, we got all excited about the game, pulled straws and one of the guys pulled the straw to be Jim Brown. As we are playing, he’s running a sweep. He really has a touchdown, but you can see he is slowing down, trying to re-enact what he saw on TV. About four guys hit him and broke both his legs, his arm and bruised his sternum.
I mentioned that to Jim many, many years ago. I told him that I knew a guy that didn’t like him. And he said, “What do you mean?” I said, “Cause the guy tried to pretend he was you and got broke up.”
I really was a fan of the game. It was like a dream coming true my rookie season. I was the special teams captain for the Browns as a kick returner and went out for the coin toss with the captains for the other team. I remember playing against the Jets when Joe Namath was the quarterback. I couldn’t believe that I was shaking Joe Namath’s hand. And I wouldn’t turn his hand loose! We’re shaking hands, and I’m just saying, “Joe Namath. Joe Namath.” And he said, “Hey, rookie, you’re one of us now — act like it.”
At Oklahoma, we had confidence. We were expected to win. When we played teams just as good as we were, we never thought we would lose. I lost that confidence when I first came to the Browns. The closest I came back to it was during that Kardiac Kids year [in 1980]. Even though we played in close games, we didn’t think we would lose. We didn’t know how we would win it. The biggest question for us was who was going to make the play to win it. It was always somebody different. — as told to Jason Brill