Cleveland Browns

Jim Brown Perfect & Priceless

As there is in any area of human endeavor and perhaps in sports more than most, there is debate regarding "the greatest" and what that title truly means. In professional football, debates regarding "the greatest" at any position, as members of the Pro Football Hall Of Fame, and in comparisons of players from one era with another dominate conversation in locker rooms, sports bars, in front of televised games, and among fans of all ages. However if there is one man, one name, one presence that immediately comes to mind and could be the named individual to cease any conversation or confusion on the matter, it is that of James Nathaniel "Jim" Brown. His storied life and career have been chronicled in articles, books, and documentaries, tracing a childhood that began on St. Simon Island, Georgia and culminated in athletic greatness in Manhasset, New York on Long Island. Blessed with physical strength and athleticism from his father Swinton, a professional fighter, and a tireless work ethic from Theresa, his mother who worked many weekly hours as a domestic, Brown became a Long Island schoolboy legend. 

By the time of his graduation, Jim Brown had solidified his reputation as Manhasset High School and Long Island's premiere secondary school athlete. Garnering thirteen letters in five sports, he was unstoppable on the gridiron, rushing the football for an average gain of almost fifteen yards per carry over the course of his career and very much serving as a one-man team with his versatility. He scored 1142 points for a thirty-eight points per game average on the basketball court and is still considered to be among the greatest of all lacrosse players on Long Island which truly is "Lacrosse Central." When his mentor, attorney and Syracuse University graduate Kenneth Molloy, and legendary coach Ed Walsh saw him off to Syracuse, his collegiate career that again won accolades in multiple sports introduced him to a national audience. Finishing fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting of 1956 was more a reflection of the disrespect voters had for Eastern football rather than a disregard for Brown's enormous talent. 


Jim Brown's professional football statistics are in many ways ridiculous. He was usually so far ahead of the pack that comparisons to him as the best at his position were rarely made. In an era where 1000 yard rushers were rare and defenses were designed to stop the run, Jim Brown was rarely stopped, leading the NFL in rushing in eight of his nine seasons. In his one "off year" he gained 996 yards and his nine year total of 12,312 yards was truly "other worldly" at the time. An eight-time first team All Pro and a Pro Bowl selection in every one of his professional seasons, Brown set a standard that was far greater than the statistics show. In some games it hardly seemed fair that he was allowed to play, such was his dominance. It wasn't his 126 career touchdowns that made defenses key on him, but rather the knowledge that no matter what the defensive intent, he could score a touchdown on any play. At times it appeared as if he could in fact score at will and since his rookie season of 1957 the very greatest of NFL defenders have been quoted as saying that Jim Brown was by far, the most dangerous, most devastating, and most destructive running back ever to grace the gridiron. In every way he seemed to be a super hero, never missing a game due to injury. His trademark slow-to-rise and return to the huddle stroll often hid nicks and bruises but he was a first-class warrior, never backing down and never showing pain. As the focal point of every defense he faced in every game he played, Jim Brown earned his way and earned the respect of his opponents. In 1971, six years after his retirement, he earned his way into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame.

Brown has said, 
“People try to compliment me by saying I was the best football player ever and I don’t need that… there is plenty of greatness to share, look at Barry Sanders and Gayle Sayers… they were great too. I don’t need to be the best. We can all be champions.” It is a simple and humble statement but it is a fact that no matter the era, one's team affiliation, or the perspective taken from that of a fan, analyst, or expert, Jim Brown is to most, the absolute greatest player in the game's history. His on-the-field presence altered every game he was in and he changed the destiny of so many games. It is an arguable point but no one has denied that Brown in the least, deserves consideration as the best of the best. For collectors, this of course means that owning an authentic piece of Jim Brown's uniform is the equivalent of owning a piece of football history, one of its best pieces.   


Mr. Robert E. Hughes was over the course of his career, one of the most influential politicians in the Cleveland and northeastern Ohio area. As the Cuyahoga County Republican Party Chairman he earned a reputation as a man who could buck the larger Democratic machine and get Republican candidates successfully ensconced in both local office and in the Ohio Governor's mansion. Hughes was instrumental in launching the career of pioneering African American politician Virgil E. Brown, Cleveland councilman, Cuyahoga County Board of Elections Director, and Cuyahoga County Commissioner. Having the power and persuasiveness to convince the political party and populace to break the color barrier in the public arena of politics, he was an important individual in Cleveland. A man who "knew everyone" and who was as equally popular as he was known, he listed Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell as a dear friend and associate as quickly as Mr. Modell noted to others that Mr. Hughes was his closest friend. May 22, 1971 began a rather significant day in the Hughes household because as a token of that friendship, Modell presented Jimmy Brown's helmet to Robert Hughes. The devotion that the family had to the Browns, as so many Browns fans have so often demonstrated, became more intensified as the great Jim Brown's practice helmet became one of the family's most treasured possessions in their Lyndhurst, Ohio home.

As the favorite player on the favorite team of Mr. Hughes' son, the gift served as a lifetime reminder of his eleventh birthday and certainly a distinct memory to cherish.  During our mission to confirm and document this helmet, Mr. Modell noted just last year when we spoke with him that "Anything that Bob (Hughes) received from the Cleveland Browns organization would have come through me and if he had asked for something for his son's birthday I certainly would have given it to him." Modell could not recall the exact helmet provided to the family but it was one of Jim Brown's practice helmets, not an extravagant gift at the time, since the younger Mr. Hughes also recalled another birthday where Mr. Modell sent one of his representatives to the party for the express purpose of showing reels of Jim Brown's game films to all of the guests. Not surprisingly, Mr. Robert Hughes was friendly with the Browns original founding family, the McBride's and the Hughes children had access to McBride's fifty-yard line seats for many games.

For approximately forty years this collectible gem sat on the bookcase of that eleven year old birthday boy until it was moved to a display case in his son's room. Keeping Brown's helmet company and sharing space with one of Jim Brown's most distinctive uniform items has been a 1954 Browns helmet that had been worn in that season's NFL Championship Game by Don Colo.

Don Colo game worn helmet

Jim Brown's extra wide "Husky" Riddell RK 2 helmet (Same style worn at Syracuse) demonstrates the RK flared sides and twelve-point suspension webbing. Brown's number 32 is written in marker on both the outside and inside of the helmet for easier player identification during practices. The two bar face mask is exactly what Brown wore during actual game action though this specific helmet has additional holes that were drilled for the attachment of a protective side bracket for jaw injuries. Viewed from any angle, the original orange factory paint, the striping, factory stampings and the distinctive handwritten numerals oozes history and nostalgia. That the helmet belonged to perhaps the greatest player in National Football League history, offers a distinction that will forever be difficult to match.   

Side by side, the only two Jim Brown helmets that have made it to public light