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The best player to wear No. 28 in Browns history

Ben Davis was a talented cornerback during his seven years in Cleveland, but was not the most-famous sibling in his family.

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One of the more enjoyable aspects of writing a series on the best players to wear a particular uniform number in Cleveland Browns history is coming across something you never realized about a player.

Such is the case with cornerback Ben Davis, the best player to wear No. 28 in uniform history.

Related: The best player to wear No. 27 in Browns history

The Browns selected Davis in the seventeenth round of the 1967 NFL Draft out of Defiance College and he is still the only Defiance player ever drafted by an NFL team. He made an immediate impact as a rookie as he led the NFL in punt returns with an average of 12.7 yards per return, which is fourth-best on the team’s all-time list, including one touchdown return.

Davis moved into the starting lineup in 1968 at cornerback and led the team with eight interceptions, including a streak of seven consecutive games with an interception, and led the NFL in return yards at 162, which earned him a Second Team All-Pro selection.

A torn ACL limited Davis to just eight games over the next two seasons, but he came back healthy in 1971 and started 39 games over his final three seasons with the Browns.

Cleveland traded Davis to the Detroit Lions following the 1973 season for a fifth-round draft pick, and he played three seasons in Detroit before retiring after the 1976 season.

Davis finished his Cleveland career with 17 interceptions, tied for No. 20 in the franchise’s all-time list, and 232 return yards, which places him at No. 21 on the all-time list.

But perhaps the most interesting part of Davis’ tenure in Cleveland came in 1970 when the FBI placed his sister, Angela Davis, on its Ten Most Wanted Fugitive list, making her just the third woman on the list.

Angela Davis was a political activist who was involved at the time in the Communist Party and the Black Panthers and was accused of having a role in the murder of a prison guard. While she was in hiding, the FBI kept a close watch on Ben Davis and he received a letter from President Richard Nixon expressing his concern about Angela’s activities.

Angela Davis would go on spend 18 months in prison before being found innocent, during which Ben Davis dealt with criticism over his sister’s political beliefs, as he told in 2014:

“Some people didn’t think I should’ve been allowed to play in the NFL. There were some opposing coaches that motivated their team by saying the Browns had a Communist. On the positive side, I received letters from opposing players who said Angela deserved a fair trial. I have to give it to the people of Cleveland for supporting us during those difficult times.”

We can only imagine what that season would have been like if Browns Twitter had existed.

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If not Davis, then who?

Three years after trading Davis to the Lions, the Browns found another talented cornerback when they acquired Ron Bolton from the New England Patriots.

Bolton played seven seasons, making 75 starts, with the Browns and had 17 interceptions and seven fumble recoveries. He is tied with Davis and four other players at No. 20 on the franchise’s all-time list with 17 interceptions.

His best season in Cleveland came in 1980 when he had six interceptions for a Browns team that won the AFC Central Division and made the playoffs for the first time since 1972. He returned an interception 42 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter of the playoff game against the Oakland Raiders, the only Cleveland touchdown in what would ultimately be a 14-12 loss.

The best of the rest

Cornerback Leigh Bodden, who had 12 interceptions in his five seasons (2003 to 2007), and running back Herman Fontenot, who had 72 receptions from 1985 to 1987 with the Browns, including touchdown receptions against the New York Jets and Denver Broncos in the 1986 playoffs, running back Terrance West, who ran for 673 yards as a rookie in 2014, his only season with the Browns, and linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, who has 146 tackles while playing in 25 games since being selected in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft.


Who is the best player to wear No. 28 in Browns history?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    Rashidi Barnes
    (0 votes)
  • 9%
    Leigh Bodden
    (20 votes)
  • 16%
    Ron Bolton
    (34 votes)
  • 0%
    James Brooks
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Eddie Brown
    (0 votes)
  • 26%
    Ben Davis
    (54 votes)
  • 2%
    James Davis
    (5 votes)
  • 0%
    Dick Deschaine
    (0 votes)
  • 15%
    Herman Fontenot
    (31 votes)
  • 0%
    E.J. Gaines
    (0 votes)
  • 1%
    Don Griffin
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    Darius Hillary
    (0 votes)
  • 3%
    Kevin Johnson
    (8 votes)
  • 0%
    Erik McMillan
    (0 votes)
  • 18%
    Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah
    (38 votes)
  • 0%
    Steve Pierce
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Sabby Piscitelli
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Tyrone Shavers
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Clifton Smith
    (0 votes)
  • 2%
    Everson Walls
    (6 votes)
  • 0%
    Terrance West
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Glen Winston
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Usama Young
    (2 votes)
204 votes total Vote Now