Hall of Fame defensive back and Oakland Raiders legend Willie Brown died Tuesday at age 78.
Brown was named to nine Pro Bowls, earned five First Team All-Pro designations and won three Super Bowls, including two as a coach. He helped the Raiders defeat the Minnesota Vikings, 32-14, with a 75-yard pick-six in Super Bowl XI.
Raiders owner Mark Davis confirmed Brown’s passing.
“Willie Brown will forever be cherished as a true Raider,” the team said in a statement. “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.”
Hall of Fame president and CEO David Baker said Brown made everyone around him better, on and off the field.
“The entire Hall of Fame family mourns the loss of a great man,” Baker said in a statement. “Willie Brown was the epitome of the Raiders’ motto of ‘commitment to excellence’ that was integral to the team’s sustained success. He embodied virtues like passion, integrity, perseverance and always led by example. His character, on and off the field, made all those around him better. His legacy will be preserved forever in Canton, Ohio, to inspire generations of fans.”
Undrafted out of Grambling State, Brown played four seasons with the Denver Broncos (1963-66) and 12 with the Raiders (1967-68). He intercepted 54 passes — tied for 21st on the all-time list — in 204 regular-season games and added seven interceptions in 17 playoff games, returning three for touchdowns..
A member of the AFL All-Time Team and the NFL’s 1970s All-Decade Team, Brown was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1984.
After retiring, Brown served as a defensive backs coach with the Raiders from 1979-88, being a part of victories in Super Bowls XV and XVIII. He was also the head coach at Long Beach State (1991) and at Los Angeles’ Jordan High School (1994) before returning to the Raiders in 1995 as their director of staff development.
—Field Level Media