July 13, 2016

CANTON, Ohio (AP) NFL senior executive Joe Browne, who recently retired after 50 years in the league office, will receive the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Ralph Hay Pioneer Award during the induction ceremony Aug. 6.

The honor is presented periodically to an individual who has made significant and innovative contributions to professional football.

Browne was the longest-serving employee in the league office before retiring in March. He began his career as a 17-year-old college intern in 1965 and soon became a key adviser to Commissioner Pete Rozelle. In 1990, Browne became the league's first vice president under Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, and was promoted five years later to senior vice president.

In 2002, Browne was promoted to executive vice president of communications and government affairs.

''Joe Browne did a remarkable job representing the NFL during his extraordinary 50-year career with the league office,'' Commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday. ''I was fortunate to break in as an NFL intern under Joe. It was a terrific education. Joe was always a fierce protector of the shield, a demanding innovator, and he set the standard for effective sports PR. He was a mentor.''

Browne led the NFL's media relations, public affairs and community relations throughout North America and overseas. He also served as chief liaison for NFL clubs in congressional, military and government agency matters. He has worked the last 49 Super Bowls.

''Joe Browne's professionalism, trust, and passion for the National Football League over a half-century was critical to shaping the game's image and promoting its great growth,'' Hall of Fame President David Baker said. ''The NFL has never had a more committed and dedicated employee than Joe, and his immense impact on the league is immeasurable. He is the very definition of the Ralph Hay Pioneer Award.''

The award is named after the former owner of the Canton Bulldogs whose Hupmobile showroom was the location for the NFL's founding meeting in downtown Canton on Sept. 17, 1920. The most recent recipient was former NFL officiating chief Art McNally in 2012.

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