Redskins Warpath – August 2019

(Barré) #1

A new neighbor knocked on Larry Brown’s door
wanting to meet the legendary Washington Redskins
running back. He was curious to see what kind of person
Brown was and by the end of the encounter became the
runner’s advocate.
A group promoting Larry Brown for the Pro Football
Hall of Fame as a Seniors Committee selection was
formed that day. It’s not the first time fans have wanted
Brown enshrined. After all, he was the team’s career lead-
ing rusher when retiring in 1976. But, the years went by
and Brown’s reputation as a hard-nosed runner who won
games slowly evaporated.
A revival to honor Brown was formed and former
Washington Mayor Vince Gray held a press conference
on June 11 in the shadow of RFK Stadium where Brown
once thrilled packed houses to remind everyone the run-
ning back was still worthy of heading to Canton.
“Larry Brown has done enough, more than enough
to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” said Gray, who
is now a city council member. “People typically say, ‘I
thought he was in the hall of fame.’ We’re going to work
to get this done. I’ll be on the road to Canton.”
Brown still looks in football shape, gray specks in his
mustache the only giveaway of his 71 years. He worked
in commercial real estate until recently and now thinks
of buying a house in Myrtle Beach where he can sit in
the sand and ponder life.
Brown appreciates the recent movement to provide a
permanent legacy for the Washington sportsman where
he teamed with Sonny Jurgensen, Charley Taylor and
Brig Owens from 1969-76 to create the Redskins modern
era of success.
“I got all these people very interested in me becoming
a member of this elite group,” Brown said, “so it’s difficult
for me not to be supportive and continue this mission. I
thought [making the hall of fame] would happen and
I’ve heard over the years I should have been inducted
years ago. The rumor is I didn’t play long enough. The
other thing is I didn’t have godfathers [to promote his
candidacy.] Coaches George Allen and Vince Lombardi
are dead.”
The Redskins were 71-38-3 with Brown in a career
that spanned from Lombardi’s arrival to Allen’s heydays
with seven playoff trips in eight years. They won at least
10 games four times in the era of 14-game seasons, in-
cluding 11-3 for the 1972 NFC East title that led to Super
Bowl VII where Washington lost to undefeated Miami.
That the Redskins were 7-5-2 in Brown’s first year was
amazing given it was only Washington’s second winning
season since 1946.
It wasn’t an easy start for Brown. The eighth-round
pick was the third runner drafted by Washington that
season. A few fumbles early into training camp brought
Lombardi’s standing order for Brown to carry the ball
with him throughout the day, though the latter said the
popular idea that he also slept with the ball wasn’t true.
That Brown was too often slow off the count caused
Lombardi to order a hearing test. It turned out Brown

was deaf in his right ear so Lombardi ordered an ampli-
fier placed inside the helmet.
Brown’s strong running style impressed his team-
mates. Those two runners selected earlier never made
the team as Brown quickly became a starter and rushed
for a team rookie record of 888 yards.
“Larry was very quick and determined. You could see
him oozing with confidence,” Owens said. “He was the
only guy who talked back to Lombardi. Back then, you
had two [offensive] plays you’d run the entire practice.
Lombardi said, ‘Larry, if you can’t hit the right hole I’m
going to run you back to [Brown’s hometown of] Pitts-
Brown became the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in
1972 when leading the league with 1,689 yards. He also
led the NFL with 1,125 yards rushing in 1970. Brown
was a four-time Pro Bowler and three-time All Pro.
Former Redskins defensive end Charles Mann never
played with Brown, but came to the ceremony out of re-
spect for the latter’s toughness.
“I think of the days when guys were bleeding,” said
Mann, who played for Washington from 1983-93.
“Those were gladiators. Those were the great days.”
Brown retired as the Redskins leading rusher with
5,875 yards in 102 games with 35 touchdowns. John Rig-
gins and Clinton Portis would later surpass Brown in ca-
reer rushing. He also caught 238 passes for 2,485 yards
and 20 touchdowns. Allen called Brown, “The best back
I ever coached.”
“Larry was one of my favorite players during the
70’s,” wrote “Mean” Joe Greene as one of many hall-of-
fame players sending letters to the selection committee
on Brown’s behalf. “He displayed special toughness and
determination in his running style.”
Riggins also wrote to advocate Brown, saying, “Gaye

Sayers and Larry are comparable. Both of their careers
were cut short because of injury, but at the height of their
abilities they dominated. It’s long overdue for Larry to be
recognized as one of the all-time greats by being inducted
into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”
Indeed, Brown gained more yards from scrimmage
than 16 of 43 hall-of-fame runners. Twenty-two of 32
modern runners ranked below Brown in one major rush-
ing category. Of 41 most valuable players eligible, 28 are
The knock on Brown was he didn’t play long enough.
That he was only great for two years and very good for
three others before injuries limited him over his final
three seasons.
But the Seniors Committee endorsed Denver’s Floyd
Little in 2010 despite playing only one more season than
Brown. The Selection Committee picked Terrell Davis
despite one less season than Brown, though the Denver
runner was the NFL’s top back for four seasons with
2,008 yards in 1998.
Brown needs to be chosen by the nine-member Sen-
iors Committee because he retired more than 25 years
ago. Their choice is recommended to the Selection Com-
mittee that must also approve it, but that’s considered a
One fan approached Brown wearing the latter’s No.
43 jersey. No Redskin has worn it since. While the team
recently allowed quarterback Dwayne Haskins to wear
Joe Theismann’s No. 7 for the first time since the latter’s
career-ending 1985 injury (following Theismann’s bless-
ing,) Brown hopes the team keeps his number on the
“I would like to keep it,” he said. “If the Redskins rec-
ognize my contribution to the game, why can’t the hall
of fame?”

16 Warpath AUGUST 6, 2019

Is Larry Brown HOF worthy?

By Rick Snider

Redskins great Larry Brown
(left) and announcer Larry
Michael came together out-
side RFK Stadium for an an-
nouncement over the
former's Pro Football Hall
of Fame chances.

Digest Photo/RICK SNIDER
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