CLEVELAND – As outspoken, unapologetic and intimidating as ever – even at age 77 – Jim Brown has reunited with the Cleveland Browns.
Still going strong, the great No. 32 is back where he belongs.
“Here I am,” he said.
The Hall of Fame running back, who was estranged for years from the NFL team where he starred in the 1950s and ’60s – after his previous role was eliminated by former president Mike Holmgren – was welcomed back to the Browns on Wednesday by new owner Jimmy Haslam. Brown will serve as a “special adviser,” focusing on community work, interacting with fans and helping mentor players.
Haslam called Brown’s return a “very special and significant day in Cleveland Browns history.” Brown’s homecoming has been in the planning stages for months, and after a few meetings with Brown, Haslam was pleased to bring back “the greatest Brown of all.”
“He’s not only the most famous Cleveland Brown of all time and best player that’s ever played here,” Haslam said. “One of the reasons the Browns remain so popular is when a lot of us were growing up, they followed 32 and he was their hero. So to have 32 back on our team and working with us and being part of not just the Browns but the Cleveland community is tremendously important.”
Brown, who retired in 1965 at the peak of his playing career to become an actor, is thrilled to be again working for the Browns, his pro football family and the team he helped lead to its last championship in 1964. The years he was disconnected were difficult, but Brown said the Haslam family’s desire to bring him back soothed any hard feelings he may have had.
“I’ve been through many ups and downs here,” Brown said. “I like the new ownership. I respect the new ownership. I will stand by the new ownership come hell or high water, and I will be doing everything in my power to help the Cleveland Browns be successful.”
Never one to mince his words or hold back on an opinion, Brown promised to continue being himself in his new position with Haslam, who bought the franchise last year from Randy Lerner.
“I wouldn’t be sitting here if there was not a relationship between the two of us,” Brown said, with Haslam seated to his left. “Jimmy doesn’t bite his tongue, so I kind of like that. I try not to bite mine, as most of you know. But I think with Jimmy I will be a little more under control.”
“I doubt it,” Haslam said with a laugh.