Sports of The Times: A Career Transition, Inspired by One of the N.F.L.’s Best

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William C. Rhoden

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Barton Silverman/The New York Times

My role model for forceful endings was Jim Brown.

Brown was 29 years old in July 1966 when he stunned the nation by announcing his retirement from the Cleveland Browns.

I was a Cleveland Browns fan.

My high school coach, Sherman Howard, had played for the Browns, my favorite receiver was Paul Warfield and I’d learned how to run a post pattern by studying Gary Collins.

And of course, there was the great Jim Brown.

When the Browns opened camp in 1966, Brown was among the missing. He was in London, filming “The Dirty Dozen.” Shooting had been delayed because of weather, but the Browns’ owner, Art Modell, didn’t care. He wanted his star running back in training camp and made his dissatisfaction public. Modell threatened to fine Brown $100 a day if he did not show up for training camp. (Mike Freeman, in his biography “Jim Brown: The Fierce Life of an American Hero,” put the figure as high as $1,500.)

Brown responded to Modell by holding a formal news conference on the movie set and announcing his retirement…

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