Syracuse Football: Tributes pour in for Jim Brown, greatest SU athlete ever

Syracuse football, Jim Brown (Photo by: Henry Barr Collection/Diamond Images/Getty Images)
Syracuse football, Jim Brown (Photo by: Henry Barr Collection/Diamond Images/Getty Images) /

Syracuse football legend Jim Brown passed away on Thursday, May 18, and word came out via social media about this unbelievably sad news on Friday.

The tributes began pouring in across the sports world and elsewhere in popular culture regarding Brown, 87, who is the greatest student-athlete in Orange sports history and one of the most important figures in the history of U.S. sports.

Brown, the late Ernie Davis and the late Floyd Little were all legendary running backs for Syracuse football, wearing the iconic number 44. However, Brown played four sports for the ‘Cuse, most notably Syracuse football and SU lacrosse, earning All-American honors in both of those sports.

Many observers also consider him the best pro football player in NFL history. Brown retired from the NFL while still in his prime, going on to a career in acting as well as being a civil rights pioneer who worked tirelessly as a social activist.

One has to acknowledge that Brown did have his flaws, as was outlined in this article by Christine Brennan of USA Today in October of 2019. But Brown’s storied tenure at Syracuse University will, to me, forever remain the most successful sports career of any student-athlete who has ever suited up for the Orange.

Jim Brown is the GOAT at Syracuse football and in all of ‘Cuse athletics.

Per, Brown is the only person in the College Football Hall of Fame, the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame, and the Professional Football Hall of Fame.

On the Hill, he played football, lacrosse, basketball and track & field. As a senior for Syracuse football in 1956, Brown was a unanimous All-American. He started the legacy of the number 44 at the ‘Cuse.

According to SU Athletics, the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame regards Brown as the greatest lacrosse player in the history of that sport. He was a two-time All-American for the ‘Cuse lax team, was the second-leading scorer for Syracuse basketball as a sophomore, and finished in fifth place at the national championship decathlon in 1955.

“Jim Brown is one of the greatest all-around athletes of all time,” said SU athletics director John Wildhack in a statement.

"Syracuse football head coach Dino Babers added that “Jim Brown was the greatest player to ever play the game. 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.”"

Hall of Famer Jim Boeheim, who retired as the head coach of Syracuse basketball this past March, said via Twitter, “We will never see another like the amazing Jim Brown. His legacy will live forever as the greatest multi-sport athlete of all-time. My heart extends to his family and friends, and all impacted by his passing.”

Brown was selected by the Cleveland Browns with the sixth overall pick in the 1957 NFL Draft. During his nine-year NFL career, before retiring at the age of 29, Brown set the Cleveland Browns’ all-time rushing record, with 12,312 rushing yards and 106 touchdowns on the ground, according to an article on

He led the NFL in rushing eight times and was voted MVP on three occasions. He made the Pro Bowl every year of his career, was a first-team All-Pro selection in eight terms, and was an NFL champion with the Browns in 1964.

Considered by many to be the greatest running back in pro history, when he shockingly retired, he had set NFL records in “single season rushing, career rushing, rushing touchdowns, total touchdowns and all-purpose yards,” per

Brown was born in St. Simons Island, Ga., and was a multi-sport star at Manhasset High School on Long Island in New York state before heading to Syracuse University, where he made his mark for Syracuse football, ‘Cuse lacrosse and other sports.

Myself and everyone in Orange Nation have Jim Brown in our hearts. We also send love to his wife, Monique, their children, Aris and Morgan, Brown’s daughter, Kim, and his sons, Kevin and James Jr.

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