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Welcoming Committee: Gene Hickerson

Leroy Kelly was one of the most feared ball carriers in the history of the National Football League during his 10-year tenure with the Cleveland Browns. Kelly was part of a legendary backfield that included Jim Brown, Bobby Mitchell, and Ernie Green among others. Leading the way for them was guard Gene Hickerson, who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Kelly welcomes his former teammate to the Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame is the ultimate honor for a football player. With all of the struggling and hard work you went through during your career, this makes it all worth it. I know that if I had to do it all over again, I would if I could.

I was one of three Browns running backs who went to the Hall of Fame, Bobby Mitchell, Jim Brown and me. One of the guys who was always there in the middle, was you, Gene. I think it is a shame that it took so long for you to get recognized. You linemen were never in the limelight, and it's a shame that people tend to focus on the guys like wide receivers. But I always appreciated what you did. I'm sure today's lineman appreciate it, too, now that they are being recognized and getting paid.

Gene, you weren't that large, maybe around 260 pounds, but you were really fast and had all of the fundamentals. You had the speed to get outside, a low center of gravity and you were able to keep the big guys away from the quarterbacks and running backs.

I remember running the 22 or 23 trap up the middle. Most of the teams ran a 4-3, so the quarterback would fake the pitch to the outside running back, and hand off to the opposite back. The defensive tackle wouldn't take the fake, so it was up to you to make that block, which you did about 90 percent of the team. You always got your man. When Jim Brown retired, Ernie Green moved to the fullback position and I moved to tailback and we both made the Pro Bowl. That was a tribute to you guys on the offensive line. That was also the first that you made the Pro Bowl, too.

Gene I always admired your personality. You were a happy-go-lucky guy and I never saw you mad. You were always hanging out by yourself, but you were liked by everybody. You were a great teammate and helped keep the atmosphere loose with some jokes or pranks. You really kept us in great spirits.

My first memory of you, was at my first training camp. I didn't realize how hot it was going to be out there. But there was only one guy who had the air conditioning in his room, and that was you. I noticed that right away. I said to myself, that is one smart guy right there.

It's a shame that this honor came to you so late, and in the condition that you are in. I don't know how much you will understand, but all of us members of the Browns are proud of you. I saw the list of players who will be there and it's nice that everybody is able to get together. It's all a tribute to you. I remember my own induction, as I had two bus loads of friends and family from my old neighborhood out there. That's why I'm glad so many Browns will be there for you. People tend to forget about the Browns and what we did back then. With all of the guys in town doing interviews, this will be good for the team.

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Carolina Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore (12) makes a deep catch as Los Angeles Chargers outside linebacker Kyzir White (44) trails on the play during an NFL football game , Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif.

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