Former NFL stars Jim Brown,87, and Craig Puki, 66, pass away on same day

 May 20, 2023

A pair of former NFL stars passed away this week, one certainly more well-known than the other, with both deaths occurring Thursday night/Friday morning.

Those two professional football stars would be Hall of Fame Cleveland Browns running back Jim Brown, 87, and San Francisco 49ers linebacker Craig Puki, 66.

A star athlete

The death of Jim Brown was first announced in an Instagram post on Friday from his wife, Monique, who wrote, "It is with profound sadness that I announce the passing of my husband, Jim Brown. He passed peacefully last night at our L.A. home."

"To the world, he was an activist, actor, and football star," she added. "To our family, he was a loving and wonderful husband, father, and grandfather. Our hearts are broken ..."

According to, Brown was born in Georgia but moved to New York with his mother and was a stand-out letterman in five sports -- baseball, basketball, football, lacrosse, and track -- at Manhassett High School, then went to Syracuse University where he was an All-American athlete in football and lacrosse but also played basketball and ran track and even qualified for the 1956 Olympics in the decathlon.

He was ultimately drafted in the first round in 1957 by the Cleveland Browns and became an instant star for the team, though he only played for nine seasons before retiring to pursue other interests. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1971, the first year that he was eligible for that honor.

Arguably the greatest pro football player ever, ESPN reported that Brown rushed for 12,312 yards in his career for an average of 5.4 yards per carry. He was a nine-time Pro Bowler, a three-time league MVP, and led his Browns to the league championship game three times, winning the title once in 1964.

Brown's acting and activism

Following his stellar NFL career, Brown became both an actor and an activist who focused on various racial and social issues in America, per

He helped form in the 1960s an organization known as the Black Economic Union that helped black athletes become entrepreneurs, and later, in 1988, founded a program known as Amer-I-Can that provided advice and assistance to inner-city youth and prison inmates to help them make better choices and become better people in their lives.

As for his acting career, Brown appeared in 58 different films and TV shows from 1964-2014, occasionally playing himself, and is perhaps best known for movies like "The Dirty Dozen," "The Running Man," "Mars Attacks," and "Any Given Sunday."

Craig Puki dead at age 66

Also passing away at the same time as Brown was former San Francisco 49ers linebacker Craig Puki, 66, who played only three seasons in the NFL but made an impact on fans and teammates, according to NBC Sports.

Puki, who was a third-round draft pick by the 49ers out of the University of Tennessee in 1980, played his first two seasons in San Francisco and appeared in every regular season game for them, securing an interception and two fumble recoveries in addition to numerous tackles. He also played in three playoff games for the team when it won the Super Bowl in 1981.

Puki's third and final season in the league was in 1982 with the Los Angeles Rams, though he only appeared in seven games for the team and retired at the end of the year.

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