Cornerback Erich Barnes, whose 14-year NFL career included 7 seasons with the Cleveland Browns, has passed away.
The hard-hitting, 6-time Pro Bowler, succumbed to an unspecified long illness on April 29 in New York.
Barnes grew up as a Cleveland Browns fan before the Bears signed him and traded him to the Giants for a spell.
But at least he got to play for his favorite team over the second half of his career.
• 6 Pro Bowls
• 3x All-Pro (1x First-Team)
• Tied a then-NFL record with a 102-yard pick-six for the Giants in 1961
• Also caught a 62-yard TD pass for NY in 1961
• Played in 6 NFL Championship games pic.twitter.com/P8RRw7fdPt
— Kevin Gallagher (@KevG163) May 1, 2022
Barnes appeared in 5 postseasons with Cleveland, and 3 with New York, including 5 championship games.
And nobody can deny he had an impact wherever he played, even among the legendary Giants defense of 1962-64.
In his autobiography, the great Sam Huff remembered how hard Barnes could hit and how far he would chase players for the opportunity.
And fans who watched the Browns from 1965 through 1971 will remember Barnes and some of his antics, too.
A Career Full of Highlights
Erich (pronounced EE-rich) Barnes racked up 45 interceptions over his career and ran 7 back for touchdowns.
And his 102-yard return in 1961 was the NFL record for some time and remains the longest in Giants history.
Barnes blocked a punt into the end zone where it became a touchdown in the 1962 NFL Championship game.
But his favorite play came against the Philadelphia Eagles in November of 1961.
1961: RIP Erich Barnes who passed away over the weekend at age 86. He played for #NYGiants from 1961-1964 & & made 4 Pro Bowls. In 1961, he tied an NFL record w/ this 102 yard INT return for a TD v Dallas. Later he scored on a 65 yard pass TD from Tittle vs Eagles #TogetherBlue pic.twitter.com/bdgp8Mc8m0
— BigBlueVCR (@BigBlueVCR) May 4, 2022
A locker room attendant suggested leaving the 5 fastest players in, including non-receivers, if the team needed a big play.
And so it was that cornerback Erich Barnes lined up in the slot and caught a 62-yard touchdown pass from Y.A. Tittle.
While with the Browns, Barnes showed off his leaping ability in a peculiar way.
He would stand in front of the goalposts, then situated at the goal line, and block opposing field goal attempts.
Barnes Fits The Current Corner Model
At 6’2″ and 200 pounds and with exceptional speed, Erich Barnes fits the modern prototype for the cornerback role.
He was very physical at the line, taking advantage of the lack of contact rules that are in play now.
“I was like a dictator or intimidator,” Barnes told a scouting website in 2008. “I kept receivers off guard. And I never let them get into a rhythm. I always wanted the receiver to go where I wanted him to go.”
Barnes stood out on a 1962-64 Giants unit recognized as one of the best defensive teams in NFL history.
And though his interceptions tailed off with the Browns, he was still an above-average cornerback until he retired.
— Old Time Football 🏈 (@Ol_TimeFootball) January 17, 2022
Barnes retired after the 1971 season with 3 All-Pro selections to go along with his 6 Pro Bowl appearances.
The Professional Football Researchers Association includes him in their “Hall of Very Good,” recognizing Hall of Fame talent not yet called.
Erich Barnes was 86 years old and is survived by his loving wife, 3 daughters, 3 grandchildren, and 2 great-grandchildren.