Arguably, Cleveland Browns’ former fullback Jimmy Brown is considered to be the greatest running back in the history of the National Football League. He was born on St. Simons Island, Georgia. Arguably, Cleveland Browns’ former fullback Marion Motley is considered to be the greatest pure fullback to ever play the game. He was born in Leesburg, Georgia. There have been numerous great players born in the state of Georgia but the greatness of the two legendary fullbacks that donned the uniform of the Cleveland Browns has more to do with the Browns organization than it does Georgia. While both are in the Pro Football Hall Of Fame, joining fourteen other members of the Browns team, the list of literal greats from this proud franchise is rather stunning. Venerable Cleveland Municipal Stadium was witness to Browns teams that dominated the first half of the 1950’s. The Conference and World Championships they garnered was testimony to the players who combined to be the best team in the All American Football Conference and among the very best teams in the history of the NFL when they were absorbed into the National Football League. Though sixteen Browns have been immortalized as members of the Hall Of Fame, far more have earned the respect of peers and experts who would label them as players of great distinction.
When the Browns returned to Cleveland for their first game on September 12, 1999, they did so in newly constructed Cleveland Browns Stadium that had replaced Memorial Stadium. Though on the same site, the new edifice sported the latest in comfort and fan friendly features with plans for more through the years. As have a number of NFL teams, the Browns added to the stadium with the recent unveiling of its Ring Of Honor and Heritage Hall. The latter is a collaborative effort with the Pro Football Hall Of Fame and features items like “Lou Groza’s black high-top cleats, helmet, pads, and ageless number 76, Bobby Mitchell’s classic orange helmet with the number 49 on the side” and much more. Browns President Mike Holmgren summed up the importance of preserving Browns history and placing that history before the public with the pronouncement, “This is pretty special...” Special indeed as the sixteen Browns Hall Of Fame Members busts are on display with the cooperation of the Pro Football Hall Of Fame in Canton, Ohio until duplicates can be cast, and special because these have been joined with the distinctive helmets that these players wore. Because the Browns organization wanted to reflect the class and style their legacy stands for, they approached HELMET HUT to provide the accuracy necessary to provide authentic reproductions of each of the 16 player helmets. The shell style, type of masks, attachment hardware, hand written player numerals and other idiosyncratic detail for each player’s head piece makes the entire display a truly enjoyable spectacle for the most serious football historian as well as the casual fan.
Heritage Hall and the Ring Of Honor have selected the sixteen Cleveland Browns Hall of Famers as the first to be placed on display but with so many true greats that populated their rosters, there certainly will be more to come. Frank Gatski, Lou Groza, Bill Willis, Gene Hickerson, Joe DeLamielleure, Len Ford, and Mike McCormack surely would make room for John Wooten, Bill Glass, Monte Clark, and Dick Schafrath. Dante Lavelli, Paul Warfield, and Ozzie Newsome would not object to sharing space with Gary Collins. Brown, Motley, Bobby Mitchell, Leroy Kelly, and Otto Graham would certainly appreciate the contributions of Frank Ryan, Ernie Green, and so many more who have made the Browns one of the most storied franchises in NFL history. Hall Of Fame Coach Paul Brown altered the game in so many significant ways and applied his principles to build a winner, from top to bottom, from the front office to the equipment room. He understood the importance of history and its role in educating and popularizing what was being done currently. The entire Heritage Hall as part of The Browns Town experience at Cleveland Browns Stadium is doing this for the Browns organization and their fans. That HELMET HUT was chosen to be an integral part of this has been an honor.