“He was probably the truest All-American lacrosse player I’ve ever seen,” the 70-year-old Elm said. “He wasn’t just big and fast. He shot underhand, left-handed, right-handed, and he passed and shot over his shoulders, the way the great players today play. And he was so damned fast in the open field, no one could touch him. You could hit him and no one could move him. He would just knock people out of the way. When he’d run with the ball, he’d use his left arm as a sledgehammer. If you had five guys, you might have a chance at knocking him down.”
“I was bigger than everybody, I had a lot of size,” Brown said nonchalantly. “But see, I came from Long Island, so I had a lot of experience at the stick. I played in junior high school, then I played in high school. The technical aspect of the game was my forte. I had all that experience, then I had strength and I was in good condition.”
And everyone marveled at his skill, especially his teammates.
“I wish you could have seen him at faceoffs,” said Jim Ridlon, an honorable mention All-America defenseman on that 1957 team. “He’d just run right over them. He must have won every faceoff.”
“He was just as good as he had to be, just like he was in football,” Roy Simmons Jr. said. “The pros in football used to come here and ask Ben Schwartzwalder, ‘How fast does he run?’ Ben said, ‘As fast as he has to.’ He always ran as fast as he had to, never any faster. To this day, no one knows how fast his 40 was, or how quick he was, or how strong he was. He just did what he had to do.”
According to statistics from US Lacrosse, Brown scored 30 goals as a junior and followed that with 43 goals and 21 assists as a first-team All-America midfielder in 1957, his senior season. Syracuse went 10-0, completing its first perfect season since 1922 with an 8-6 victory over archrival Army.
The season-ending triumph snapped an 18-game losing streak against the Black Knights and provided Brown with a crowning moment. Current head coach John Desko has a large black-and-white photo hanging from his office wall that shows Brown in that game, and his uniform is a little bit different from those of his teammates.
“He was at a track meet that morning. We beat Colgate, our nemesis in track, by 13 points, and Jim scored 13 points (in three events),” said Roy Simmons Jr., who succeeded his father as head coach in 1971 and stayed for 28 years, building the Orange into a lacrosse powerhouse. “He didn’t have time to change his shorts. He just pulled his jersey on and ran back out (of the locker room), grabbed his stick just in time to start the game.”
And then took it over.
Besieged by autograph seekers, Brown walked out of old Archbold Stadium all alone that day.
“I can remember him walking across the field and up the stairs,” Roy Simmons Jr. said. “He turned around and waved good-bye. It was a very emotional picture of Jim standing at the top of the stadium waving good-bye.”
Brown played one more game that year, and it may have been his greatest moment as a lacrosse player. He scored five goals in one half against the nation’s top players in the Collegiate North-South All-Star Game.
“I was just a big guy running down with a big, deep pocket and little short stick putting it against my chest,” Brown said.
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