Simply put, this is the finest and only example of a Gene Hickerson jersey ever offered or examined by MEARS.
(According to the Pro Football HOF website) Gene Hickerson is regarded by some as the finest linemen ever to hail from the Southeastern Conference. The star tackle from the University of Mississippi was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the 7th round of the 1957 draft.
Hickerson joined the Browns in 1958 and was promptly shifted to guard to better utilize his speed. He had to pay his dues by first serving as one of Hall of Fame coach Paul Brown’s “messenger” guards. Hickerson quickly went from delivering plays to the huddle to establishing himself as the steady lead blocker for three future Hall of Fame running backs – Jim Brown, Bobby Mitchell, and Leroy Kelly.
After just three seasons in the NFL, Hickerson’s career was slowed when he suffered a broken leg in the 1961 pre-season opener. He fractured the leg again late in the year when he was hit while watching a game from the sideline.
He rebounded fully by the following season. After sitting out two games in 1962, he never missed another game for the remainder of his stellar career. Along the way, he gained the reputation as the lead guard for Brown, regarded as one of the game’s greatest runners. But, the official accolades really did not come until after Brown retired and Leroy Kelly became Cleveland’s featured back. Hickerson earned first-team All-NFL acclaim five straight seasons, 1966-1970, and was voted to six consecutive Pro Bowls from 1966 to 1971.
By the time Hickerson retired following the 1973 season at age of 38, his accomplishments on the football field were unquestioned. During his tenure, the Browns never experienced a losing season. In all, he played in 202 games during his career and started at right guard in four NFL title games that included the Browns’ 27-0 win over the Baltimore Colts in the 1964 NFL Championship Game.
Style: Chocolate brown home pullover with full length sleeves with elbow pad pockets. The number “66” is found on the front, reverse, and both shoulders. Both sleeves have the white-orange-white-orange-white color scheme. Starting in 1961, the Browns added numbers to their sleeves. The broad dating range of this style is 1961-68, as in 1969 the team added the 50th Anniversary patch and this jersey shows no signs that the patch was ever present. Hickerson was injured in the 1961 pre-season, thus 1962 as the starting date, but 1961 may have been possible. Features a ribbed crew neck and sleeve openings. The materials is made from what is commonly referred to in the industry as a “tear away” jersey, although a light weight material is probably a more accurate term. Examples to support the style and material issued include:
1962-65 Jim Brown
1960s Walter Johnson
This jersey compares with respect to manufacturer and style to the above mentioned jerseys.
Supplier King O’ Shea with Bleep – Coombs supplemental tag: King O’ Shea was a documented supplier of NFL and Cleveland Browns jersey during the era. The style of the tag dates circa 1963-70 and is confirmed as being the correct design per the MEARS football tagging database.
Blepp – Coombs is the supplemental distributor tag which is found left of the King O’ Shea tag in the added crotch piece. Blepp – Coombs was a Cleveland based Sporting Goods Company that distributed athletic supplies to such teams including the Browns. They were formed on 5-3-30 but no longer exist.
Size 48: The jersey is tagged as a size 48, and is true to size when verified by taking a chest measurement. Although no other examples of Hickerson jerseys exists which would verify size, other lineman from the era wore size 48, so this is the acceptable size for what you would expect to find on a Hickerson jersey.
Game Wear: Heavy just won’t accurately describe the wear on this beauty! Pounded, murdered, Obliviated, and ran over with a freight train, simply put, awesome.
Left Shoulder: Two vintage team repairs, re-enforcement of the crew collar, heavy pounding and wear to the area.
Right Shoulder: Three distinct team repairs, breaking of the stitching, heavy pounding to the general area.
Reverse 66: Six large team repairs are present.
Front 66: Eleven large team repairs are present.
Front area: Eleven large/heavy team repairs are present.
Left Sleeve: Three team repairs are visible and two repairs to the sleeve numeral.
Right Sleeve: Six repairs to the numeral 6. There are 3 team repairs to the right sleeve.
In addition, there are large areas of contact marks scattered on all planes of the jersey.
Final Grade MEARS A10: Based on the examination of the manufacturer, supplier, comparison to player photos from the era, and review of the heavy game wear, this jersey was awarded a perfect MEARS A10 grade. The heavy amount of use is correct for a player of Hickerson’s position and amount of games played. LOA Troy R. Kinunen / MEARS