Having known Dave Brown, as it turns out, was a blessing that keeps on giving.
Brown died of a heart attack on Jan. 10, 2006, four days before the Seahawks hosted the Washington Redskins in a divisional playoff game on their way to the only Super Bowl appearance in franchise history. His hard-to-fathom passing, six days shy of his 53rd birthday, prompted the Seattle Post-Intelligencer to offer, “In their greatest season, the Seahawks have lost one of their greatest players.”
Gone, but definitely not forgotten. That was, and remains, Dave Brown.
|Blue and Green Dream Team|
The Seahawks’ 35th Anniversary team, as selected by the readers of Seahawks.com:
When the readers of Seahawks.com cast their ballots for the 35th Anniversary team, Brown received more votes than any cornerback (2,182) – including Marcus Trufant (1,767) and Shawn Springs (969), the other corners on the reader-selected team.
Remembered and revered. That remains Dave Brown, too.
“I don’t know anybody who doesn’t love Dave Brown,” Gary Wright, then the Seahawks’ vice president of administration, said after Brown’s death – which was as shocking as it was sudden. “He was a class individual. He just stood out. He stood out as an athlete. He stood out as a human being.”
Brown also stood out because he is the only member of the 35th Anniversary team who also coached for the Seahawks, as he mentored the position he once manned from 1992-98.
But then Brown was a coach long before the Seahawks hired him to be one.
“I had some really good role models and mentors in front of him to teach me how to play,” said Eugene Robinson, the free safety on the 35th Anniversary team who joined the Seahawks in 1985 after Brown and strong safety Kenny Easley already had become established Pro Bowl players.
Robinson is candid in his assessment that he likely wouldn’t be on the 35th Anniversary team if Brown had not taken him under his wing.
“No one knows, but I was at Dave Brown’s house every Wednesday watching film,” Robinson said. “And that was before it was cut up like it is now into third downs, first downs, mixed downs and all the different ways they prepare film for the players.
“Guess what? I had to do that by myself, with Dave Brown. Every Wednesday. Without exception. Talk about an education.”
Which Robinson then did.
“Dave would say, ‘All right rook, what have we got? What happened on third down and less than 3 yards? What happened on third down and 4-to-6 yards? What happened on third and 7-plus? Tell me when they run the bootlegs. Tell me when they run the waggle. Tell me when they run bash,’ ” Robinson said.
“I did that so much of that with Dave that I’m on the bench and I’m calling out the other teams plays as I see their sets. ‘Ah, here comes the trap.’ ‘Ah, here comes the counter.’ ‘Oh, boot alert.’ Someone next to me says, ‘How do you know?’ I’m like, ‘Dave Brown told me.’ That man taught me how to watch film, and not watch it like I’m watching a movie. You have to learn how to study film, and I had a great teacher in Dave Brown.”
But make no mistake; Brown also could play the game.
He joined the Seahawks in 1976, coming to the expansion team from the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers in the veteran allocation draft. Brown led the team in tackles that inaugural season with a career-high 111, and while playing free safety. He moved to right cornerback in 1977, and stayed there for the next 10 seasons – when five corners started opposite him (Eddie McMillan, Cornell Webster, Kerry Justin, Keith Simpson, Justin again, Simpson again and Terry Taylor).
By the time Brown left the Seahawks after the 1986 season, to play his final three NFL seasons with the Green Bay Packers, he had compiled one of the more impressive statistical dossiers in franchise history: 50 interceptions, which remains the club record (with Robinson’s 42 ranking second); a club-record five interception returns for touchdowns, including a franchise-best two in a 1984 game against the Kansas City Chiefs; 643 return yards, another record; and 684 tackles, which ranks No. 7 on the team’s all-time list. He also started every game he played (159), totals that rank sixth and ninth, respectively.
Brown also scored well when it came to leadership, character and the respect of his peers. That was never more obvious than in 1992, when he was induction into the Ring of Honor – the third player to be honored after Steve Largent and Jim Zorn. Brown was voted to the Pro Bowl in 1984, when he had a career-high eight interceptions. He was a defensive captain four times.
During his stint as a paid coach for the Seahawks, Brown also left his mark on the franchise. Robinson went to the Pro Bowl twice under Brown’s tutelage, and free safety Darryl Williams was a Pro Bowl pick in 1997. Springs also played for Brown and went to the Pro Bowl in 1998.
Put it altogether and it creates the total package that was this unique player and person.
“Dave was a great guy,” said Terry Beeson, a middle linebacker who joined the Seahawks in 1977 and led the team in tackles his first three seasons. “He absolutely was one of the most-class persons that I’ve ever been around.”
Joe Nash, the nose tackle on the 35th Anniversary team, seconds that notion.
“Dave was a great person. A great teammate. And truly a leader,” Nash said.
None of his teammates knew Brown better than Sherman Smith, the franchise’s original running back who now coaches the position for the Seahawks. They were more than teammates, because Brown and Smith lived next door to each other for 10 years.
“Dave was a heckuva competitor,” Smith said. “He loved to compete, and he was a great athlete. I loved what he was all about as a man.
“Dave was a good player because he was a good person, because of what he stood for as a person. He was accountable. He was dependable. And he carried that onto the field.”
Beeson pointed to Brown’s consistency as the key that ultimately unlocked his success, on and off the field.
“There were better players in the league than Dave Brown, but there weren’t more consistent ones,” Beeson said. “The guy lined up every time the ball was snapped and did his job. He might not have been the fastest guy on the field. He might not have been the greatest technical guy on the field.
“But he was so consistent at doing it every down.”
The fans remember, and so do his former teammates.
“Dave was a dear friend of mine,” said Largent, the Hall of Fame wide receiver and leading vote-getter on the reader-selected team. “He was one of those guys that when I think about my career, I’m proud to be his teammate.”
Which Largent is once again, on the Seahawks’ 35th Anniversary team.