Jim Brown possessed the athletic ability to dominate multiple sports during his lifetime. As great of a football player as Brown was, there was another sport that called to his attention: lacrosse. As he moved up to collegiate play from 1954 through 1957, Brown dominated a multitude of sports. From 1954 to 1956, Brown was […]
Jim Brown possessed the athletic ability to dominate multiple sports during his lifetime.
As great of a football player as Brown was, there was another sport that called to his attention: lacrosse.
As he moved up to collegiate play from 1954 through 1957, Brown dominated a multitude of sports. From 1954 to 1956, Brown was the only African-American player on the Syracuse University football team. Brown’s production his senior year led him to become a first-team All-American selection. But he also earned First-Team honors in lacrosse, as he led the lacrosse team to a 10-0 finish.
“Not everyone knows this, but lacrosse has always been my favorite sport along with football. I started playing at Manhasset High School, not too far from the Lizards’ home field at Hofstra,” Brown said.
After his tremendous achievements at the college level, Brown was more than ready to prove himself in the NFL. In 1957, Brown was selected by the Cleveland Browns as the sixth pick in the first round in the draft. Playing a total of nine seasons, Brown won the 1964 NFL championship (defeating the Baltimore Colts) and finished with career totals of 126 touchdowns (10th all-time) and 12,312 total-yards (9th all-time). He was also a 1971 Hall of Fame inductee.
However, the passion and effort that Brown put forth to the game of lacrosse shadowed him for years to come. After being inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1983, he lunged back into the air of lacrosse in 2012, becoming an owner of a Major League Lacrosse (MLL) team in the New York Lizards. The Lizards are one of nine teams that make up the MLL. Last year, the Lizards finished atop of the league with an overall record of 10-4. A new season for the Lizards kicks off on April 23 against the Rochester Rattlers.
“If we could start a winning tradition and a tradition of expanding the game to kids who wouldn’t have the opportunity, those two things would be my aim,” Brown told “Lax Magazine” in 2012. “I don’t know what I would have played if I had an opportunity on an equal level to choose between football and lacrosse. It would have been a toss-up.”
Brown even went as far as saying lacrosse was the best sport he ever played.
“Lacrosse is probably the best sport I ever played,” Brown told the New York Times in 1984. “There was no publicity. You had to like it. There was no pressure, just great competition. The attitude of the coaches and players was exceptional.”
During an April 2013 pre-game speech in the Lizards’ locker room, Brown told the team, “The reason why I loved (the game) so much is because there was a physical part to it, where you could knock somebody out.”
Brown carried over that spirit this year as he helped Hampton University become the first historically black college or university (HBCU) with a Division I men’s lacrosse team. Hampton is also the first HBCU to have a men’s lacrosse team since 1981 (Morgan State), a team that current Head Coach Lloyd Carter was a part of.
“When we played at Morgan we didn’t realize we were making history until we got older and then it hit us,” Carter said. “These guys, it won’t really hit them until they get older, then it’ll sink in.”
And lacrosse isn’t only seeing transition at the college or pro levels. It is also happening in Prince George’s County’s backyard. High schools are picking up participation in the sport at an increasing rate.
“There’s a lot of kids in the county who are playing, and it became harder and harder to explain why Prince George’s County didn’t have the fastest-growing high school sport in America as a varsity sport,” Justin Ross, commissioner of the PG Pride Lacrosse Club, told the Washington Post.
Prince George’s County will be fielding seven boys’ lacrosse teams this year inluding Gwynn Park, Frederick Douglass, Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr., Bowie, Oxon Hill, Eleanor Roosevelt and Northwestern.
In years to come, DeMatha Head Lacrosse Coach Scott Morrison believes even more change will happen.
“Prince George’s County is most certainly behind the rest of the state, in terms of offering lacrosse, but that’s changing in a good way,” Morrison said. “Look forward five or ten years from now, I’m confident you’re going to see some kids from Prince George’s County Public Schools going on to play at the next level.”
Roosevelt Head Coach Don Fink sees the sport expanding and growing in the near future.
“I think the plan is for every PG school to have a girls’ and boys’ lacrosse team in the next year or so,” Fink said.
Brown is seeing the change unfold daily.
“There are so many things that the African-American community has not had an opportunity to participate in,” Brown told ESPN. “If lacrosse can be the one that opens the door, then I’m all for it.”