Bob Brown was Nebraska’s first African-American to be named All-American.
By Randy York
If you’re a Nebraska football fan who purchased one of the 430 tickets to attend Saturday night’s Husker Huddle prior to NU’s nationally televised game at Fresno State, you will be rewarded for your loyalty and entertained in a uniquely historical way. The event’s featured speaker is none other than Bob (Boomer) Brown, a member of both the College Football and Pro Football Halls of Fame. Talk about bringing history to a two-hour pregame huddle that will include a buffet and the ever-popular dueling piano performers. A unanimous first-team 1963 All-American, Brown was a true trailblazer. He not only played when the Huskers’ 335 consecutive home game sellout streak started in 1962, he helped lead Nebraska’s revival the day Bob Devaney arrived in Lincoln.
Bob Brown is a member of the College Football and Pro Football Halls of Fame.
Brown: Nebraska Treated Others like Nebraskans
I have no idea what Bob Brown will share in his pregame talk, but I know how much value he provided five years ago while sharing his memories of being a student-athlete at Nebraska in the early 1960s. “More than 50 years ago, we didn’t just turn out muscle heads. Nebraska turned out fine young men who challenged themselves intellectually as well as athletically,” Brown told me. As the No. 2 overall pick in the first round of the 1964 NFL draft, Brown played 10 seasons and was named first-team All-NFL seven times. A native of Cleveland, he’s equally proud of becoming the first African-American to earn All-America football honors as a Husker.
“We had great experiences at Nebraska,” Brown said. “There weren’t many black guys going to Nebraska in those days, but all the people in Nebraska treated us like we were Nebraskans – the same way they treat all the other out-of-state players who decide to come to Lincoln.” When Devaney left Wyoming for Nebraska, “he turned the whole program and the whole state around with a new way of thinking,” Brown told me. “Of course, I knew Coach (Tom) Osborne before he ever became a great coach. He may have been the youngest coach on that staff, but he was the common thread that ran through it. Those coaches were open and nice and always left you with a warm feeling.”
After Growing Up on Big Ten Soil, He Chose NU
Perhaps Brown will share with Husker fans his own unique twist of playing in the Big Eight Conference, even though he was recruited from Ohio, home of some of the Big Ten’s most fertile recruiting soil. Interestingly, Brown will never forget the second game he played under Devaney, a 25-13 win at Michigan, Devaney’s home state. “We didn’t take a very big travel squad, and Michigan must have dressed 150 people that day,” Brown recalled. “We were doing our jumping jacks when they came out of their tunnel in Ann Arbor, and the crowd roared. It sounded like thunder, but we were the ones who had the real Thunder that day,” Brown said, referring to Bill “Thunder” Thornton, Nebraska’s first modern-day black football captain.
The historic footnote is obvious. “It’s a fact, and it’s still a belief that we all share – winning at Michigan on that late September Saturday in 1962 marked the start of Bob Devaney and the beginning of Nebraska football really taking off,” Brown said. For me, that observation begs for another historic footnote. Before 1962, Nebraska had experienced seven consecutive non-winning seasons, so Brown indeed was a catalyst for Nebraska’s renaissance. Somehow, in my opinion, Husker fans should always remember what life was like before Bob Devaney arrived.
Send a comment to email@example.com (Include city, state)
Follow Randy on Twitter at www.twitter.com/RandyYorkNsider
Voices from Husker Nation
Thanks for a great article on Bob Brown. I was just 22 in 1962 and remember Bob Brown very much. Seems like he was a 300-pounder. I was always proud that he played at Nebraska and followed him in the pros. Enjoy reading positive sports news.Gary Lukert, Seward, Nebraska
Loved your story about Bob Brown. He has always been one of my football idols even though all I knew about him was as a legendary player for Nebraska and Philadelphia. Seems like a quality man and looks young and healthy in the picture! If you ever speak with Bob again, please tell him that a Nebraska football brother is a big fan of his. Carl Johnson, Phoenix, Arizona