For Gene Hickerson, and the leagues of Browns fans who have supported his cause for years, the wait is finally over.
This afternoon, after far too long of a wait for anyone knowledgeable about his accomplishments, Cleveland Browns offensive lineman Gene Hickerson was named to Pro Football's Hall of Fame.
The news rewards Hickerson for his years of service during the team's glory years, as he paved the way for HOF running backs Jim Brown and Leroy Kelly. It also ends a long battle for Browns fans, who have steadfastly supported Hickerson as being a Hall of Fame candidate since he first became eligible.
The OBR will continue to look at Hickerson's career as his day of enshrinement nears. We will also report on Monday from Berea, as Hickerson talks to the local media. In the meantime, here is the club's press release:
BROWNS GUARD GENE HICKERSON ELECTED TO THE PRO FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME’S CLASS OF 2007
Browns to host media availability with Hickerson on Monday, Feb. 5 at noon in Berea
For Cleveland Browns guard Gene Hickerson, the wait is finally over. Hickerson was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s class of 2007, becoming the 16th member of the Browns storied franchise to be enshrined in Canton, Ohio. The announcement was made this afternoon in Miami following the 39-member media panelist vote. The class of 2007 will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame the weekend of August 4-5.
“I am honored to be joining such an elite group of individuals and to be remembered as one of the best linemen of all-time,” said Hickerson. “It was such a relief to finally get the phone call and be informed that I was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”
Hickerson, who played 15 seasons (1958-60, 1962-73) for the Browns, appeared in six Pro Bowls (1966-71) and was voted an all-league selection on five occasions (1966-70). Hickerson was also named the NFL’s most outstanding blocker in 1969.
Hickerson, 72, joined the Browns as a seventh-round draft choice out of Mississippi in 1957. His 15-year career, all with the Browns, ended in 1973 as he played in 202 games, which ranks fourth highest in franchise history, including a streak of 165 consecutive games, which also ranks fifth longest in team annals. More importantly, Hickerson was part of an offensive line that paved the way for two Hall of Famers, legendary running backs Jim Brown and Leroy Kelly.
Hickerson played in every game during his career, except for the 1961 season when he missed the year with a broken leg. Known as a versatile lineman, he broke into the starting lineup at right guard his second season with the Browns in 1958 and remained at right guard through the 1971 season. Hickerson moved over to start at left guard for the final two seasons of his career from 1972-73. Hickerson helped running back Jim Brown lead the NFL in rushing in eight of his nine seasons and also helped Leroy Kelly lead the league in rushing in 1968.
Hickerson is the 16th former Brown in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He joins head coach Paul Brown, running backs Jim Brown, Leroy Kelly, Marion Motley and Bobby Mitchell, offensive guard Joe DeLamielleure, defensive end Len Ford, center Frank Gatski, quarterback Otto Graham, place kicker/offensive tackle Lou Groza, wide receivers Dante Lavelli and Paul Warfield, offensive tackle Mike McCormack, tight end Ozzie Newsome and middle guard Bill Willis.
With 16 members in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Browns currently have the fifth-most representatives in the Hall of Fame, behind the Bears (26), Green Bay Packers (21) and Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants (tied with 17 each).
Hickerson is retired and lives in Avon, Ohio, a western suburb in the Cleveland area.
Randy Lerner, Cleveland Browns owner:
“Gene represents the best of the Browns past and expected present as a tough, hardworking and committed individual. He’s stayed loyal to the organization throughout and we congratulate him with our best wishes.”
Jim Brown, Cleveland Browns Hall of Fame running back (1957-65):
“He was one of the best pulling guards that ever played," said Brown. "He had unbelievable speed and mobility and was the best lineman we had. He blocked downfield, something guys today can't do. Nobody knows blockers better than the guys who ran behind him, and I for one am proud that he is in the Hall of Fame. He was the best blocker on a good blocking team.”
Leroy Kelly, Cleveland Browns Hall of Fame running back (1964-73):
“Gene is one of the main reasons I’m in the Hall of Fame. I had a hard time catching up to him because he was a great pulling guard. He deserves the honor and I’m happy for him.”
Dante Lavelli, Cleveland Browns Hall of Fame wide receiver (1946-56):
“Gene Hickerson was a perfect fit for the type of player Paul Brown looked for in building a successful team. He had the ability and the speed to become a great pulling guard. Few people could do what Gene accomplished during his career. He personified the great tradition of the Cleveland Browns.”
Doug Dieken, Cleveland Browns offensive tackle (1971-84) and current Browns radio network analyst:
“When he left the game, the all-time leading rusher was Jim Brown," said Dieken. “The fourth-leading rusher was Leroy Kelly. Those kind of numbers add up for you. Gene could run with the running backs. You wouldn't see a running back catching up to him on a sweep. Jim Brown said he should be in there. That should be enough right there. He's the best guard I ever played with.”
Dick Shafrath, Cleveland Browns offensive tackle (1959-71):
“Gene was my roommate. He was a fierce competitor, who was totally committed to the game. It made him the great player that he was. I’m extremely happy for him, for he had been overlooked for years. It proves the old adage that good things are worth waiting for.”