Tough but tricky Jim Brown has led the National Football League in rushing in each of his three years as a professional. In 1958 he set a record by rushing for 1,527 yards, tied another with 18 touchdowns and, in all, has gained 3,798 yards at 5.1 yards a try.
Little things that mean a lot
At the beginning of a play, I literally use a three-point stance (above left). My right toe is on a line a bit behind the left heel. My head is up, I am balanced lightly by my right fingertips and I am in a position, coming out of the crouch, to look for my opening and blockers. For the hand-off (above right) my hands are held palms up. As soon as I get the ball I tuck it away (below left); to make it secure, I cup a hand over one end of the ball and put the other end in the crook of my elbow. I still have one arm free to fight off tacklers, and this is one of my most important weapons. I realize this does not jibe with the classic notion of the fullback (below right) as a power man who wraps both arms around the ball, puts his head down and runs straight ahead. This is not wrong, but I like to think and run like a halfback, and I still prefer speed and shiftiness to straight-ahead power.
September 25, 1960
When a tackier closes in I counteract his force with two blows: one with my shoulder, the other with my free arm. I do not ram him with my head, but I do tuck my body lower to gather my strength. First I knock him off balance with my corresponding shoulder (right against right, left against left). Then I deliver a full, powerful blow with my forearm, aiming it for his chest or midsection.
If I am hit low (right) I dip down to get a better blow with my forearm. This forces the tackier back and gives him less of a shot at my legs. I pivot at the same time and hope to get free.
If I am hit high (left) I strike with my shoulder (at an angle, so I can glance off) and swiftly bring my forearm up at the tackier with a pendulum-like swing.
If I am caught by an ankle, I remember that every inch counts and try twice to break away. But it is easy to get hurt in this situation, so I do not pull too hard. If I know I am caught, I dive forward and settle for two valuable yards. When I am hit squarely, I shake and move every muscle I have. Sometimes I manage to get loose.
If I am stymied on a play such as this, where I have to get over the almost-joined legs of my linemen, I sidestep, hop over the legs, pivot as I land on my right foot in this case) and swiftly bring the left leg over. For an instant my back is turned, but I am nailing and spinning much too quickly to be a good target for a tackier.
Every trick helps
A fumble in the backfield can be disastrous. I have found that by scooping the ball with one hand (top)—ideally with the hand opposite the foot closer to the ball—I can keep running and turn a potential loss into a gain. I take pitchouts on the run (center), and this head start enables me to pivot or cut more quickly. Once I have the ball, I love to run, but sometimes—as below, when the tacklers submarine under our linemen—I dive over the line. Generally, I do this only on short-yardage plays. I would not advise diving at other times. I do not run as low as most fullbacks. When there is an opening I run almost straight up. When there is a small hole I run lower, leading with my shoulder but keeping my eyes up. If the running room is tight I hit and spin. Jumps and spins are part of my "halfback attitude." To get a better shot at a tackier I sometimes shift the ball from one hand to the other. I never do this in close quarters, for it is too easy to fumble and a back's real function is to get through or around the line with the ball.