Cleveland Browns legend Jim Brown is scheduled to come to Lexington next month.
On June 18, Brown has committed to be here to accept the Blanton Collier Award, an honor named for one of the Hall of Fame running back's head coaches in Cleveland.
"He's coming, and we're real excited about it," said Kay Collier McLaughlin, a daughter of the former Browns and University of Kentucky football coach.
This will be the first time the award — given annually by the Kentucky chapter of the NFL alumni to honor someone who both excelled on the football field and used the platform their football fame provided to make contributions to society — has been presented to one of Blanton Collier's former Cleveland players.
In the racially turbulent 1960s, Collier had a reputation of being especially sensitive to his black players.
"They always had a good relationship," McLaughlin says. "What Jim liked was that Daddy respected him."
In Collier's first year as Cleveland head coach in 1963, Brown ran for what was then an NFL-season record of 1,863 yards. The next year, Collier and Brown led Cleveland to the 1964 NFL championship.
To this day, that remains the most recent major pro sports championship (no pressure, LeBron) won by a Cleveland team.
"After that championship season, Jim wrote my Mother (Mary Forman) a letter thanking her for sharing Daddy with the team," McLaughlin said.
Brown will receive his award in the same ceremony where the class of 2010 will be inducted into the Kentucky Chapter of the NFL Hall of Fame.
Former Redskins tackle Joe Jacoby (University of Louisville); longtime NFL defensive back Cris Dishman (Louisville native); current Dolphins safety Yeremiah Bell (Clark County and Eastern Kentucky University); former Giants tight end Gary Shirk (Morehead State); and longtime NFL coach Bill Arnsparger (Paris) will be honored.
Tickets for the ceremony at the Lexington Opera House are $50 and $100 (for information, call Tammy Jones at 276-3488).
To this day, many consider Brown to be the greatest football player ever. ESPN ranked the rugged running back — who was also a basketball and lacrosse standout at Syracuse University — the fourth greatest athlete of the 20th century, behind only Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth and Muhammad Ali.
Off the field, Brown has had a run-in or two with the law across the years. But he also has a long history of social involvement.
In the 1960s, Brown raised money to assist minority business owners. Since 1998, his Amer-I-Can organization has worked with inner-city youth, especially those vulnerable to street gangs.
"Daddy would be very, very happy about Jim getting this award," McLaughlin said. "And he would be very happy about what Jim is doing to help troubled youth."
New coaches get personal
If you'd like an up-close look at the commonwealth's three new major college head football coaches, KET is the place to be.
In the next three weeks, Connections with Renee Shaw will feature 30-minute interviews with, in order, Louisville's Charlie Strong, Western Kentucky's Willie Taggart and Kentucky's Joker Phillips.
With the hiring of all three in the current off-season, Kentucky became the first state to have three black major-college head football coaches working at the same time.
Shaw, whose program is devoted to providing a positive look at minority communities, says her goal with the coaches was to give viewers insight on the men behind the public personas.
What will viewers learn about each coach?
Strong: "I'd seen things attributed to him before saying that racism was one reason it took so long for him to get a chance (to be a head coach)," Shaw said. "Well, he totally rebutted that with us. He said he didn't believe his race or his wife's race, who is Caucasian, played any role in how long he waited. He says now that he was sort of taken out of context on that issue."
Taggart: "I think people will be struck by just how deep his ties and commitment to Western really are," Shaw says of the former WKU quarterback. "He told a story about how he met his wife right there on the campus. People will certainly see why he says he's come home."
Phillips: "I was surprised at how open, how personable he was," Shaw said. "He talked a lot about what growing up in a small town, Franklin, Ky., was like and how it shaped him. And he talked a lot about how he admires the military and how he hopes to use a military style to organize his program."
The interview with Strong airs May 14 at 5 p.m. on KET2 and at 1:30 p.m. May 16 on KET; Taggart will be on KET2 on May 21 and KET on May 23; Phillips is scheduled on KET2 on May 28 and KET on May 30.
Meanwhile, as you read this, we are 113 days from the UK-U of L football game. It's 120 days until Taggart brings his first WKU team to Commonwealth Stadium for UK's home opener.