Blue-collar ethic elevates Brown
The offensive tackle will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday.
Bob Brown went to work wearing a helmet and pads. He would have been equally comfortable carrying a hard hat and lunch bucket.
The former Eagles, Rams and Raiders offensive tackle had a working-class attitude.
Playing in the NFL "was a job and like any other job I was raised by a man who taught me that if you work for someone and you take their money, you give them an honest day's work," he said. "I never dogged a play. I ran the tank completely dry."
His effort took him all the way to Canton.
Brown, who made six Pro Bowls and earned All-NFL honors five times during a career that lasted from 1964-73, will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Sunday along with John Elway, Barry Sanders and Carl Eller.
One of the first NFL linemen devoted to year-round weight training, the 6-foot-4 Brown was nicknamed "The Boomer" because he loved to beat up on defensive ends. The Cleveland native played at 300 pounds, but that was muscle, not flab.
"I had two options. I could either go out there and be real good and be the beater, or I could go out there and be very mediocre or ordinary and be the beatee. I liked the role of beater better," he said in a humble voice.
Brown is so soft-spoken that it's hard to imagine he ever played in the NFL. But when it was time to go to work, he was a menace to the man across the line of scrimmage.
"He would knock out a guy every day almost at practice. He was just tough. Nobody never beat him," said Gene Young, a childhood friend and Brown's college roommate and teammate at Nebraska.
Brown said his goal was to wear down his opponent physically and mentally: "If I hurt you enough, I can make you quit."
Hostile words from a 62-year-old devoted husband, father and grandfather.
While Brown was as tough as they come on the field, he never brought the brutality of his work home. He taught his son, Robert Brown Jr., about the cerebral aspects of football and how he could apply that to his life.
"My father has always been highly disciplined and I learned from him that in order to achieve excellence you have to be willing to sacrifice and put in the time and work extremely hard," said the younger Brown, a deputy city attorney in Los Angeles who has a green belt in karate.
Brown's wife of 39 years said their 37-year-old son has been practicing his father's Hall of Fame induction speech "since he was 12."
"The only person with a better work ethic is my son," CeCe Brown said.
But Brown Sr. still works hard.
He lifts weights three days a week at his home in Oakland, exercises every day and puts countless hours into his hobby of restoring classic cars. He used to build muscle cars, but said he can't "wrench" anymore because of surgery on his back and a hip replacement.
He just finished restoring a 1964 pearl white Cadillac convertible -- with a pale green and white leather interior -- that he's owned for about 30 years.
"The car is absolutely splendiferous," said Brown, who's planning to start a car restoration business with a friend.
Brown was the second overall selection in the 1964 NFL draft by Philadelphia -- San Francisco took Texas Tech tight end Dave Parks at No. 1 -- and the first pick of that year's AFL draft, by Denver.
Young, a fullback who first played with Brown on their ninth grade team in Cleveland, said his best friend was nimble for a big man, which helped him kick and play linebacker and tackle for the Cornhuskers.
"As I look back, the one thing I didn't realize is he could dance," Young said. "He was light on his feet."
When he got to Oakland toward the end of his career, Brown played on a line with three other future Hall of Famers: Art Shell, Gene Upshaw and Jim Otto. He retired before the Raiders started making Super Bowls and regrets not playing in the big game, but takes satisfaction knowing he gave his all on every play.
"Every week to me was a Super Bowl," he said. "I had to play my own personal Super Bowls. I was not going to take a whipping, I just wasn't."