Passan: Justice Is Served

The Hall of Fame's Seniors Committee has overturned years of frustration for the many Browns fans who felt that Gene Hickerson should be enshrined in Canton. The entire football world will soon get to know what Browns fans have known for years...

Finally!! Finally!! He finally made it.

Justice has been served. The wrong has been righted. The scales have been balanced.

It took nearly 30 years, but Gene Hickerson will take his rightful place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton on the first Saturday in August, joining the other 15 Cleveland Browns enshrined in the shrine. It's about damn time those doors swing open for him.

He knocked on those doors and made it to the final 15 three straight times shortly after becoming eligible for the Hall of Fame following his peerless 15-year career, all with the Browns. After that, those knocks went unanswered. It seemed as though no one cared.

Then Hickerson became a memory. Until the Hall of Fame's Seniors Committee last year decided it was time. No one knows what took those five men so long to nominate him. Right now, no one cares. They did. That's all that counts.

Without them, Hickerson would still be wondering why he has been snubbed for all these years. He'd still be wondering what he had to do to get their attention once again.

In recent years, it‘s fortunate the 40-man electorate has taken the Senior Committee's recommendations more seriously. It's almost as though they have rubber-stamped the Seniors' nominees the past few years. And well they should.

So now, the big guy from Tennessee by way of the University of Mississippi is considered one of the all-time greats, something most Browns fans have known for many years. They also know it's an honor that should have been bestowed upon him a long time ago. Now, the pro football nation will know about him.

All those years that left knowledgeable football people scratching their heads as to why Hickerson was on the outside looking are just a memory.

All those years when visions of No. 66 paving the way for the likes of Hall of Famers Jim Brown and Leroy Kelly danced around in our minds. Now rewarded.

What a great birthday present for Hickerson, who turns 72 on Feb. 15.

Between now and Aug. 4, old film clips will allow pro football fans all over the world to see why Hickerson has been credited with defining the art of the pulling guard. He became the prototype. Fans also will see how truly fast he was. It was not uncommon to see him racing downfield ahead of Brown or Kelly looking for someone else to block.

Drafted as an offensive tackle out of Mississippi in 1957, Hickerson didn't join the Browns until the following season. After watching for a year, he became one of coach Paul Brown's messenger guards with John Wooten.

The door of opportunity opened when fellow guard Jim Ray Smith demanded a trade and was sent to the Dallas Cowboys following the 1962 season. Hickerson and Wooten became full-timers.

Back then, Hickerson and the rest of the Browns' offensive line worked in relative anonymity. And though the Browns led the National Football League is most offensive categories, it was Brown, Kelly, Ernie Green, Gary Collins, Paul Warfield and Frank Ryan who received most of the accolades.

But now, the whole football world will know what most Browns fans have known: Gene Hickerson is one of the all-time great offensive linemen ever to play the game. And this time, the gang of 40 got it right.

What a nice feeling.

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