Willie Brown – Oakland Raiders
By: Chad Wilson – All Eyes DB Camp
Everybody loves to press these days. Ask any defensive back what they love to do the most and they’ll probably tell you “line up close to the line of scrimmage to play bump and run.” Well they can all thank Willie Brown for that.
Brown may or may not have been the first cornerback to line up and play bump and run but he was the leader of the group that made the technique popular.
The Oakland Raiders were as popular a football team as there was in the late 60’s and 70’s. From the silver and black uniforms to their on-field antics, football fans could not get enough of the Raiders. One of the things the team became known for on the field was their aggressive play spearheaded by the bump and run played by their cornerbacks.
Brown played collegiately at Grambling State and was a tight end. He went undrafted in 1963 out of college despite there being 20 rounds back then (yes I said 20!). He signed a free agent contract with the Houston Oilers who cut him in training camp. He was then picked up by the Denver Broncos who moved him to cornerback and he became a star. In his rookie season he recorded 9 INTs and was selected to the AFL All-Star Game.
Four seasons later, Brown would be traded to the Oakland Raiders and was installed in their new bump and run defense. For the next 12 season, Brown and the Raiders would terrorize offenses with their physical play and disruptive ways at the line of scrimmage. Brown would be elected to five AFL All Star Games and 4 NFL Pro Bowls in his 12 years with the Raiders. His crowning moment came in Super Bowl XI vs. the Vikings when he stepped in front of a Fran Tarkenton pass and raced for a then record 75 yard touchdown.
Brown holds a special place for me as he was my first defensive back coach in college at Long Beach St. in 1990. He introduced me to the mindset of a defensive back. That mindset stood with me throughout my playing days and definitely stands now as I coach and mentor other young men playing the game.
He ended his NFL career with 54 INTs for 472 yards and 2 TDs. He was a 3x Super Bowl Champion and was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1984. Not bad for a guy who went undrafted in a 20 round NFL draft.