football-fbs flag

Syracuse Athletics | May 19, 2023

Jim Brown, Syracuse football and lacrosse star turned NFL legend, passes away

These are the biggest stadiums in college football

Syracuse University and National Football League legend Jim Brown '56 passed away today. Brown is the only man enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame (1995), National Lacrosse Hall of Fame (1984) and the Professional Football Hall of Fame (1971), where he was inducted in his first year of eligibility. The 87-year-old is survived by his wife, Monique, their children, Aris and Morgan, and his daughter, Kim, and his sons, Kevin and James Jr.

"Jim Brown is widely regarded as one of the greatest athletes to ever wear Orange," said Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud. "Jim was a four-sport athlete at Syracuse who was an All-American in both football and lacrosse. An NFL legend, he set numerous records, won countless awards and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, among others. He epitomized Syracuse University's deep commitment to military service having been commissioned as a second lieutenant through Army ROTC and continuing his military service in the Army Reserves while playing in the NFL. He went on to be a successful actor, tireless advocate for social justice and one of Syracuse's proudest ambassadors. I extend my deepest condolences to Monique, his family and all who knew, loved and admired him."

Brown's career at Syracuse started the legacy of the number 44. As a senior in 1956, he was a unanimous All-American and finished fifth in Heisman Trophy voting. That season he set the SU record for highest rush average in a season (6.2), most rushing touchdowns in a game (6) and most points scored in a game (43). He ran for 986 yards — third-most in the country despite Syracuse playing only eight games — and scored 14 touchdowns. In the Cotton Bowl, he rushed for 132 yards, scored three touchdowns and kicked three extra points. Syracuse University retired the #44 in 2005 — recognizing Brown, Ernie Davis and Floyd Little, and all those who wore the number.

"Jim Brown is one of the greatest all around athletes of all time," said Syracuse Director of Athletics John Wildhack. "At Syracuse he was the first of the famed 44s and excelled at lacrosse, basketball and track & field. In addition to his athletic accomplishments, he was a civil rights pioneer and created the Amer-I-Can Foundation for Social Change, which is designed to empower individuals to take charge of their lives and achieve their full potential.

"We extend our deepest sympathies to Jim's wife, Monique, their children, Aris and Morgan, his daughter, Kim, and his sons, Kevin and James Jr."

A four-sport letterwinner at Syracuse, Brown wore the Block S on the football and lacrosse fields, the basketball court and as a track & field student-athlete. The National Lacrosse Hall of Fame regards Brown as the greatest lacrosse player ever. A two-time lacrosse All-American, Brown was the nation's second leading scorer as a senior (43 goals in 10 games). As a sophomore, he was the second-leading scorer for the basketball team and earned a letter on the track team. In 1955, he finished in fifth place in the National Championship decathlon.

"Jim Brown was the greatest player to ever play the game," said Syracuse head football coach Dino Babers. "I remember my dad making me watch his highlights as a kid so I could appreciate his greatness. He was the best of the best and will be forever remembered as a Syracuse legend and the best of all time."

In 1957, the Cleveland Browns selected Brown with the sixth overall pick in the National Football League Draft. During his nine-year NFL career, Brown earned NFL Rookie of the Year honors, was a two-time league MVP and was selected for the Pro Bowl in every season. With Brown in the backfield, the 1964 Browns won the NFL championship. He retired from the NFL at the age of 29, having set records in single-season rushing, career rushing, rushing touchdowns, total touchdowns and all-purpose yards. He was also the first player to ever reach the 100-rushing-touchdowns milestone. The Browns retired his number 32 jersey.

Following his football career, Brown pursued acting and broadcasting, and was social activist. He appeared in several films throughout the late 1960s and 70s and served as an analyst in football and boxing. In 1988, he founded the Amer-I-Can Program, which focuses on working with at-risk and high-risk youth in underserved schools and juvenile detention facilities and has had a significant impact with adult incarceration and reentry programs.

In 2016, Brown was inducted into the U.S. Army ROTC National Hall of Fame. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant through the Army ROTC in 1957 following his graduation from Syracuse University. After he was selected in the NFL Draft, he also continued his military training commitment at Ft. Benning, Ga. as an Army Reserve officer. Brown continued to serve for four more years and was honorably discharged from the Army Reserve with the rank of captain.

Born on February 17, 1936, in St. Simons, Ga., Brown attended Manhasset High School on Long Island before joining the Orange in 1953. While at Manhasset, Brown was a five-sport star — lettering in football, basketball, track & field, lacrosse and baseball.  In 1952, Brown earned the Thorpe Award, presented to the most outstanding football player in Nassau County. In the same year, he earned Newsday All-Scholastic honors in basketball, after averaging a then-Long Island record 38 points per game. Brown also placed first in the high jump at the Nassau County Track & Field Championship and was tabbed an All-Metropolitan Lacrosse League midfielder. 

Since 2008, Brown worked with the Cleveland Browns as an executive advisor. In February, the NFL announced it renamed its league rushing title as "The Jim Brown Award."

College basketball's 9 winningest teams

Here are the top nine college basketball programs in terms of all-time wins.

Men's college basketball: Ranking Jim Boeheim's 9 best teams at Syracuse

Jim Boeheim has coached 46 teams at Syracuse. We ranked them all by using a formula.

Jim Boeheim builds his ultimate Syracuse player

Jim Boeheim breaks down 10 of his all-time great players into ten categories to build the ultimate Syracuse player.

Subscribe To Email Updates

Enter your information to receive emails about offers, promotions from and our partners