A couple of days earlier than Tremendous Bowl X in 1976, a number of the N.F.L.’s greatest stars mingled at a personal celebration at a nightclub in Miami. Chuck Foreman, then a fearsome working again with the Minnesota Vikings, remembered rubbing shoulders with a number of the greatest stars of the time on the place, together with Walter Payton and O.J. Simpson.

Then he sat down with Jim Brown, the best working again of all of them, who had left the Cleveland Browns a decade earlier than. Foreman, who rolled over linebackers and cornerbacks for a residing, recalled that he was intimidated. He grew up idolizing Brown not only for his prowess on the sphere, however for his willingness to struggle for civil rights and to stroll away from the sport on the peak of his powers.

“Once I was rising up, there was Jim Brown, Jim Brown and Jim Brown,” mentioned Foreman, now 72. “He was larger than most linemen and quicker than most extensive receivers. However he additionally left on his personal phrases, particularly again in these days, being an outspoken Black man.”

Foreman, like many others, referred to as him Mr. Brown. However as they talked, the youthful working again’s fears dissolved. Brown complimented Foreman’s fashion of play and his success with the Vikings. Then he gave Foreman some recommendation that has caught ever since.

“‘Know when to go down,’” Foreman mentioned Brown instructed him. “‘Don’t jeopardize your profession over two inches.’”

Brown, Foreman mentioned, wasn’t simply telling him to run good, he was telling him to consider his future and never sacrifice his physique needlessly.

Although he didn’t say it, Brown, who died on Friday at 87, might have additionally been speaking about life exterior of soccer. In a recreation with a 100% damage price, few N.F.L. gamers depart as a result of they wish to. Most wind up with accidents that by no means heal and are ushered out of the sport as soon as their utility to coaches is gone. Those that retire once they wish to usually achieve this as a result of groups aren’t anymore.

Brown was the alternative. He left the N.F.L. after the 1965 season, his ninth within the league and one in all his finest. He ran for 1,544 yards and 17 dashing touchdowns, and caught 34 passes, 4 of them for scores. He was voted the league’s Most Priceless Participant for the primary time since his second season.

His dashing data — most notably his 12,312 yards on the bottom — had been finally damaged by Payton, Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith and others. However Brown’s profession lasted simply 9 years and he performed largely 14-game seasons, fairly than 16- or 17-game campaigns, at a time when chop blocks and different harmful tackles had been allowed. His 104.3 dashing yards per recreation common nonetheless stands as a league document.

Then he walked away, opting to pursue a Hollywood profession making films and more cash than in Cleveland. His breaking level got here when he was filming “The Soiled Dozen.” Brown instructed Artwork Modell, the crew’s proprietor, that he can be late to coaching camp. Modell mentioned he would nice Brown for day-after-day he missed camp. Offended, Brown referred to as a information convention to announce that he was leaving the N.F.L.

By that time, Brown had completed extra in soccer than many do in for much longer careers, together with profitable a league title in 1964, three M.V.P. awards, and proudly owning the N.F.L.’s profession dashing document. However solely a handful went out on prime. John Elway and Peyton Manning gained Tremendous Bowls of their final seasons, however each had been now not of their prime. Sanders retired from the Detroit Lions when he was simply 30, however gained only one playoff recreation.

Brown, then again, was a form of Mount Rushmore determine, a working again of stature who helped redefine the ability an athlete might have on and off the sphere by demanding that house owners and coaches deal with gamers — notably Black gamers — with respect.

“You can also make a case that Wilt Chamberlain was his personal man in basketball, however Jim Brown would have been the primary professional soccer participant within the trendy period to have that form of presence and sway,” mentioned Michael MacCambridge, the writer of “America’s Sport: The Epic Story of How Professional Soccer Captured a Nation.” “It was clear that Jim Brown was a distinct era of participant with a distinct mind-set.”

Gamers who got here after him knew about that distinction.

“There isn’t a person who performed working again within the NFL who didn’t see Jim Brown as an iconic legend on and off the sphere,” Tony Dorsett, one in all 10 working backs to surpass Brown’s complete dashing yards, wrote on Twitter.

“You possibly can’t underestimate the impression #JimBrown had on the @NFL,” Sanders additionally wrote on Twitter.

As distinctive as he was on the sphere, Brown was removed from an ideal human being. He was arrested greater than a half-dozen instances, together with for a number of accusations of violence in opposition to ladies. He was by no means convicted of a serious crime.

However when it got here to the game that made him well-known, Brown had few equals. Ernie Accorsi, the Browns common supervisor from 1985 to 1992, was in highschool when he noticed Brown play in individual in opposition to the Baltimore Colts in 1959. Brown ran for 5 touchdowns and 178 yards to beat the defending champions and, to Accorsi, it felt like watching Babe Ruth in his prime.

Years later, Accorsi labored within the Colts’ entrance workplace alongside Dick Szymanski, who had been Baltimore’s center linebacker in that recreation in 1959. Szymanski instructed Accorsi that Weeb Ewbank, the Colts’ head coach on the time, had suggested that Brown was tipping his performs: When Brown lined up along with his proper hand within the filth, he was working proper, and vice versa.

Brown nonetheless ran throughout Szymanski, and within the locker room after the sport, Ewbank instructed Szymanski that he hated to suppose what Brown’s dashing totals would have been if he hadn’t given Szymanski the guidelines.

“Coach, I knew precisely the place he was going, however I couldn’t catch him or sort out him,” Szymanski replied.

In Brown’s illustrious profession, few might.