Gene Hickerson, the Cleveland Browns' Hall of Fame right guard whose blocking helped Jim Brown, Leroy Kelly and Bobby Mitchell make the shrine, died Monday. He was 73.
Joe Horrigan, a spokesman for the Hall of Fame, confirmed Hickerson's death, saying that Hickerson's son, Bob, had received a telephone call from the facility where his father was under care.
Hickerson was Brown's bodyguard on the field. Brown called Hickerson "the greatest downfield blocker in the history of pro football." When Hickerson was inducted into the Hall in 2007, Brown, Kelly and Mitchell pushed his wheelchair onto the stage in Fawcett Stadium.
At 6 feet 3 inches and 248 pounds, Hickerson was small by today's gargantuan N.F.L. standards.
A sixth-round draft pick from Mississippi, he used his superior speed and quickness to beat defensive linemen off the ball. Hickerson was voted to six consecutive Pro Bowls and was chosen for the league's All-Decade team of the 1960s.
The Browns never had a losing record during his 15 years with them.