AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND — The greatest Cleveland Brown of them all is being immortalized.
Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown, one of the most dominant players in NFL history who left the game at the prime of his career, will be honored with a statue outside FirstEnergy Stadium.
The team announced the tribute on Wednesday, Brown’s 80th birthday.
“Everyone admires the incredible impact that Jim Brown has made for Cleveland, the Browns and the NFL throughout his lifetime, and we have had the special opportunity to know and learn from his contributions to our team on a personal level, as well,” owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam said in a joint statement. “It is only fitting that one of the most iconic professional football players and members of Cleveland and the Browns is commemorated with this statue as he will always be such a permanent fixture in our city.”
The sculpture of Brown will be unveiled later this year.
Wearing his iconic No. 32, Brown shredded defenses for nine seasons, leading the league in rushing eight times. He was named Rookie of the Year in 1957, won MVP honors in 1957, 1958 and 1964 and walked away from the game after the 1965 season — at age 30 — to pursue an acting career. He finished with 12,312 yards, 126 touchdowns and recorded 58 career 100-yard games.
“It humbles me to be honored in this manner,” said Brown. “Dee and Jimmy Haslam, thank you for the respect and love. Your investment in Cleveland is unparalleled. To the fans of the Cleveland Browns, I guess I’ll always be with you — thank you.”
Brown, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971, has remained active in the Cleveland community and with the team during his retirement. He had a brief falling out with the Browns but was brought back by the Haslams in 2013 to work as an adviser.
The Browns have commissioned sculptor David L. Demming to create the statue, which will be erected outside the stadium’s southeast corner.
Brown’s statue will be the fourth erected downtown to salute a Cleveland professional athlete. The Indians have three outside Progressive Field honoring Hall of Famers Bob Feller and Larry Doby and slugger Jim Thome.