Willie Brown, one of the greatest defensive backs in NFL history, has passed away at the age of 78, per NBCS’ Scott Bair.
Brown spent the first few years of his NFL career with the Denver Broncos, but he will always be known for his tenure with the Oakland Raiders. Throughout his twelve years as a player in Oakland, he won a Super Bowl and made four pro bowls. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1984 for his legendary work as a player.
Brown remained involved with the Raiders organization for decades after his illustrious career as a player. He was part of the team for all three of their Super Bowl wins as a player and a coach. He coached defensive backs in 80s when the team had Lester Hayes and Mike Haynes, which is considered one of the greatest cornerback tandems in NFL history. As Bair noted in his report, Brown was a huge part of Raider Nation and his loss will be a tough blow to the organization.
Follow the Heavy Oakland Raiders page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content!
1. Willie Brown Was Undrafted and Cut by His First Team
The success rate of undrafted free agents isn’t always very high, but Willie Brown is certainly one of the best. He played his college football at Grambling State University, but the NFL wasn’t very interested in him coming out. He eventually was given a chance to play for the Houston Oilers. However, he didn’t make it out of training camp and was cut. He then made his way to the Denver Broncos and lasted a few seasons before they traded him to the Oakland Raiders. The rest was history as he became one of the most famous and popular Raiders of all time.
2. His Most Famous Play Came During Super Bowl XI
There are few plays more iconic in NFL history than Willie Brown intercepting Fran Tarkenton in Super Bowl XL. In fact, NFL Films named it as the fifth-best interceptions in NFL history back in 2016.
Bill King calling Brown “old man Willie” as he ran down the field will forever be in the minds of Raider fans. It was the play that sealed the first Super Bowl win for the Raiders and turned Brown into a legend.
3. His Death Comes Only Two Months After a Former Teammate’s
Sadly, Brown isn’t the only Raider legend that has passed recently. Cliff Branch died back in August. The two men were instrumental pieces for the team in the 70s and 80s. Both players were involved in all three of the Raiders’ Super Bowl championships. While Brown is forever immortalized in the Hall of Fame, Branch still has to wait his turn. The Hall of Fame’s David Baker had a chance to release a statement on Brown’s passing, via Matt Kawahara.
4. He Was the Team’s Director of Staff Development From 1995 Until His Death
The Raiders love to hire people they know as evident by the fact that several alumni still work within the organization. Brown served as the director of staff development for over 20 years before his death. Considering his track record, Brown probably excelled in that position as he did at football.
He was intelligent and educated and held a Master’s Degree from Long Beach State University. What exactly his role was as the director of staff development is unclear, but there’s little doubt that he was a very useful asset for the organization.
5. Derek Carr & the Raiders Mourn the Legend
Quarterback Derek Carr is currently the face of the Raiders and he took to Twitter to mourn the death of Willie Brown.
Carr references the moment when he was drafted and Brown was the one that called his name. The Raiders are a tight-knit family and they frequently have alumni at practices. Most of the roster should be very familiar with players like Brown, so his death has likely affected many of the players and coaches. The team released an official statement:
Willie Brown will forever be cherished as a true Raider. He exemplified the Raider spirit, originally entering the AFL as an undrafted free agent out of Grambling State before joining the Silver and Black in 1967. He remained an integral part of the organization through six decades. His legendary performance on the field changed the way the cornerback position was played and his valued guidance as a coach, mentor and administrator permeated the organization and touched countless individuals both on and off the field. Willie’s loss will leave a tremendous void, but his leadership and presence will always be a major part of the fabric of the Raiders Family.
The team’s owner Mark Davis also released a touching statement about Brown:
It’s A Very Sad Day For The Raider Nation As A Whole.. And For My Family In Particular.. Willie Brown Was One Of The Greatest To Ever Play The Game.. But It Was Off The Field And How He Treated My Mom For Which I Will Forever Be Indebted To Him.. Every Road Trip It Was Willie Who Helped My Mom Up And Down The Stairs Of The Plane.. It Was Willie Who Joined Her For All Dinners On The Road.. It Was Willie Who Came To Her Every Birthday And Mother’s Day Dinner.. It Was Willie Who Was Her Best Friend.. We Loved And Will Miss You Willie…