OXFORD – (AP) The Pro Football Hall of Fame bust of the late Gene Hickerson has found a permanent home at University of Mississippi.
The Oxford Eagle reports that the bust was presented to Ole Miss by Hickerson’s family. Hickerson helped the Rebels to the 1955 SEC title and a 1956 Cotton Bowl win over TCU, plus a victory over Texas in the 1958 Sugar Bowl.
Hickerson went on to play 15 seasons for the Cleveland Browns as the lead blocker for three Hall of Famers – Jim Brown, Leroy Kelly and Bobby Mitchell.
He was a member of the 2007 Pro Football Hall of Fame class when he joined tackle Frank M. “Bruiser” Kinard as the only players from Ole Miss to be enshrined in Canton, Ohio. Kinard was inducted in 1970.
The bust of Kinard is on display in Hollingsworth-Manning Hall, the Ole Miss athletics memorabilia room located in the Michael S. Starnes Athletics Training Center on campus.
Hickerson’s bust will be part of a special display honoring his accomplishments at both Ole Miss and Cleveland.
“We are honored to donate Gene’s Hall of Fame bust to Ole Miss,” Bob Hickerson said. “Gene always loved Ole Miss and had fond memories of his days while playing for Coach (John) Vaught. I know he would be pleased that he continues to be remembered as an Ole Miss Rebel.”
Quarterback Bobby Ray Franklin, a teammate of Hickerson at Ole Miss and then for seven years with the Cleveland Browns, presented Hickerson during the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.
“Gene really loved Coach Vaught and Ole Miss as well as anybody,” Franklin said of the man who became his best friend. “I didn’t know Gene until my freshman year at Ole Miss and he took care of me. In those days, the veteran players were pretty rough on the freshmen. We played two years together at Ole Miss and then those years with the Browns. In fact, we roomed together my rookie season in Cleveland.
“Gene was so much faster than the linemen and Coach Vaught made him run with the backs,” Franklin recalled. “It didn’t take Coach (Paul) Brown in Cleveland long to realize how important it was for Gene to pull on end run sweeps.”
Hickerson passed away in 2008 after a lengthy illness.