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|Brown part of Ole Miss glory days|
With expectations high before the season for the 2009 Ole Miss football team, former Rebel Allen Brown enjoyed the stories of the glory days for Ole Miss.
Not that he learned much new because he played through some of them.
Brown, who now resides on Lake St. John with his wife, Margaret, helped lead the Rebels to a 19-4-1 regular season mark from 1962-64, competing in two Sugar Bowls and a Bluebonnet Bowl.
He was an All-American in 1964 and all-Southeastern Conference in 1963 and in 1964. He played in the 1964 Blue-Gray Game and 1965 Chicago All-Star Game and Senior Bowl.
As a matter of fact, Brown never played on a losing team, coming close in 1964 when the Rebels went 5-5-1, falling to Tulsa 14-7 in the Bluebonnet Bowl.
In his sophomore and junior years at Natchez-Adams High, the Rebels won the South Big 8 championship.
"We finished second my senior year, but we did beat No. 1 Pascagoula down there," Brown said. "We had Perry Lee Dunn, Will Warren, the Rodriguez's and a good running back in Walter Beesley."
Brown was recruited by Ole Miss, LSU, Alabama, Mississippi State, Tulane, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Tennessee and Arkansas.
"It actually came down to LSU and Ole Miss," Brown said. "I was looking hard at LSU and went down there several times. I was thinking about going down there with Mike Morgan. But my three brothers played high school ball with the Pooles and they told me I was going to Ole Miss. It was a lot different then because schools could sign 75 players and then cull them out."
Brown was recently selected to be inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and those ceremonies will be held July 30-31, 2010 in Jackson.
Brown said the transition from high school to the SEC was a huge one.
"It was faster and you had to be a lot more precise in what you had to do," he said. "If you didn't take care of your responsibilities, you let somebody else down. It was quite a change."
Brown played end and linebacker for the Rebels.
"I loved playing defense more," he said. "I felt I would have been better playing defense at Green Bay, but I had to do what they wanted me to do."
Ole Miss completed a perfect 10-0 season in 1962 with a 17-13 win over Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl. That team finished ranked third, behind Southern Cal and Wisconsin.
"That was quite a team," Brown said. "We didn't believe anybody could beat us. But that was the time of integration at Ole Miss, and that took away a lot of the attention,"
Brown was named to the Sophomore All-SEC team that season.
Brown was part of the first Ole Miss team that played in Memorial Stadium in Jackson against Houston.
"That was great because it was so far for my family and friends to go to Oxford," he said.
The Rebels went 7-1-2 in 1963, falling to Steve Sloan and Alabama 12-7 in the Sugar Bowl. That team finished No. 7 in the nation.
Brown led the team in receiving that season, catching 16 passes for 221 yards, with most coming from Natchez High teammate Perry Lee Dunn.
Brown was co-captain of the 1964 Ole Miss team.
"Bobby Robinson was the other co-captain and we were good friends," Brown said. "He was a year ahead of me, but he got red-shirted. I played against him when he was at McComb. We were very close. His daughter ended up marrying my son (Tim)."
Brown said they did not have to worry about keeping players in line.
"The biggest thing back then was maybe a player going off somewhere to smoke a cigarette," he said. "Our job was really just trying to keep the guys up and motivated."
Brown's sons, Tim and Burkes, both played at Ole Miss. Tim was also a co-captain.
"They talked Tim into going to Co-Lin first because he wasn't real big and he did well," Brown said. "He still stops there to talk to former coaches and roommates. Burkes did not get to play much at Ole Miss, but he did well, also."
Tim and Burkes live in Vicksburg, while daughter Jodi lives in Natchez and teaches at Cathedral.
Brown said he felt one of the biggest mistakes made at Ole Miss was taking the players out of the dormitories.
"The coaches had no control," he said. "We slept together, ate together and played together. We were close. We didn't have guys driving up in Escalades. My first car when I signed with Green Bay was a family car."
Brown played in the 1965 Senior Bowl, catching two passes from Joe Namath.
"Joe was cocky, but only in front of people," Brown said. "He really was a nice guy."
Brown was also selected for the 1965 Chicago All-Star Game.
"Otto Graham was our coach," Brown said.
But Brown was unable to play in the game as during practice, Illinois linebacker Dick Butkus hit the Ole Miss tight end going across the middle and dislocated his shoulder.
Cleveland won the 32nd annual charity game 24 to 16. Navy's Roger Staubach dislocated a shoulder in the contest.
Staubach's passes to Fred Biletnikoff, the Oakland Raider rookie, set up a 36-yard field goal.
Brown's injury kept him playing for Vince Lombardi and Green Bay his rookie year of 1965.
"I just kept all the books," Brown said. "I would walk up and down the sideline by Coach Lombardi every game."
Lombardi left West Point in 1954 for an assistant coaching position with the New York Giants, under head coach and former classmate Jim Lee Howell. Lombardi was in charge of the Giants' defensive strategy. The previous season, the Giants suffered with a 3-9 record and scored the lowest number of points in the league. Within three years of Vince's arrival, however, the Giants were a championship team. His leadership channeled the talents of football great Frank Gifford, whom he switched from defense to offense. For each of the five years that Vince coached the Giants, Gifford was nominated as a halfback on the all-pro team and the Giants did not have a losing season.
By 1958, the 45-year-old coach had grown tired of being an assistant coach. He accepted a challenging five-year contract in Wisconsin as the general manager and head coach of the perpetual losing team, the Green Bay Packers. At the time, the Packers had no clout in professional football, for they had won only one game the previous year.
Green Bay beat Cleveland for the NFL championship in 1964.
"Jim Brown was on that Cleveland team," Brown said. "When Lombardi coached for the New York Giants they had the chance to get Jim Brown with the first pick. But Lombardi told the Giants he did not want to draft Brown because he felt he was a troublemaker and if they did he was leaving. Instead, they picked Frank Gifford. Lombardi promised he would never lose to Jim Brown, and he never did."
It would be the final NFL championship as the Super Bowl would begin being played the next year, pitting the NFL winner against the AFL winner.
Brown, who was a third-round draft pick of the Packers as the 38th player taken, was also drafted in the third round by the San Diego Chargers of newly-organized American Football League.
"San Diego actually offered me more money," Brown said. "I was in the room with Green Bay's Pat Peppler, the director of player personnel who is one of the best ever, and had Coach Lombardi on one phone and Sid Gilliam of San Diego on the other phone. I had Ray and Buster Poole there and Coach Frank (Bruiser) Kinard, who was like a father to me. They told me not to sign with San Diego because they didn't think the AFL was going to make it. I told them they offered me more money and Pat Peppler got on the phone and the offered me the same amount. I signed with Green Bay and I don't regret that. It was the better place to be."
Brown said he enjoyed playing for Lombardi.
"There were times he could make you feel that tall," Brown said holding his fingers an inch apart. "But the next day he would pat you on the head and say, 'Let's go.' He really was a super nice guy. And he was a great motivator. The intensity of pro ball was a lot more than college. There was so much more to learn."
Brown said Lombardi went out of his way to make the players happy.
"He would invite the players' wives and children over to his house for Thanksgiving," he said. "He made sure to take care of the wives. He knew if the players were not happy in Green Bay, they would not be happy on the field. He bought the wives mink stoles, washing machines and dryers and jewelry. Back then we would play San Francisco and Los Angeles and just stay on the West Coast. He would fly the wives out there later after we got there to stay."
Even though he wasn't able to play in the first Super Bowl against Kansas City, Brown said it was an event.
"We really didn't know what to expect," he said. "It was like a bigger Sugar Bowl. Tickets were like 20 bucks for the game."
Brown enjoyed playing in the second one against Oakland.
"We knew more what to expect," he said. "And we knew what to expect. There was no way we felt we were going to lose that game."
Brown said Lombardi continuously talked down the AFL.
"We were in the New York airport once and the Jets happened to be going somewhere at the same time," he said. "We had our sport coats on with the Green Bay emblems and were well dressed. The Jets were wearing jeans and loafers. Coach Lombardi stopped us right there in the road to have a team meeting and talked about the difference."
Brown's career ended on December 16, 1967 against Pittsburgh.
"I got hit in the back in a pile-up," he said. "I thought I had broken a rib at the time. I could hardly breathe. I went to the bathroom later and there was blood when I urinated. I woke up later in a hospital, still had my uniform on."
Brown stayed in the hospital until January 27, 1968. Doctors did exploratory surgery and found he had a small spleen growing off his spleen and it had been severed.
"I was losing a pint of blood a day," he said. "I got down to 165 pounds and the doctors told me they didn't think I should play football anymore. I came back home and recuperated and got back up to 185 pounds. Coach Lombardi had moved on to Washington and Coach (Phil) Bengston sent me a contract. I called him back and told him I couldn't even go to training camp. My kidney had been exposed and I couldn't take the chance of being hit."
Brown caught three passes for 32 yards in 1966.
"I knew I was there to block," he said. "If you threw the ball 25 times in a game, that was a lot. Bart Starr would complete about 10-to-12 passes a game."
Brown said Lombardi liked to call audibles and to offset the defense from catching on, he would change up the odd and even numbers used to call where the play was going, which was a big adjustment from what Brown had learned his entire football career.
"I went to block down once and went the wrong way and hit Forrest Gregg above the eye and he had to have 13 stitches," Brown said. "I was like, 'Oh my goodness, I'm sorry.' He just laughed it off and told me not to worry about it."
Brown is also credited with a 13-yard kickoff return against the Los Angeles Rams.
"The tight ends and ends would be lined up on the side and the other guys behind us," Brown said. "It was kicked high and I caught it and ran with it."
Brown was Ole Miss' choice in 1994 as part of the SEC Legends, which is an annual award program of the Southeastern Conference designed to honor outstanding former college football players from each of the conference's twelve member institutions.
Begun in 1994, the Legends Dinner featuring video highlights of each honoree's career is one of various events of the week leading up to the SEC Championship Game. The honorees are also recognized at halftime of the game.
Brown has been hampered with a bum right arm since being involved in a truck accident in January near Glasscock Island when the driver hit some sand on the road and lost control. Brown, sitting in the passenger side seat, broke his arm when he was thrown forward. None of the other four riders were injured.
"I had an operation and then started rehab too fast and the screws came out of the plate," Brown said. "I lost feeling in my right hand and can only bring my arm up a little bit. I'm having to learn to write all over again."
Brown said Margaret, who will be retiring from Natchez Regional Medical Center on November 6, has helped him through the injury, along with other family members.
"I don't know what I would do without family and friends," he said.
It was the first time Brown had undergone surgery besides having his spleen removed following a football game when he was playing with Green Bay. It was an injury that would end his NFL career after three years.
Brown doesn't make a lot of Ole Miss football game nowadays, but he and his wife took their children and six grandchildren to the Ole Miss-Alabama-Birmingham game on Saturday.
"It's such a production now," Brown said. "But I enjoy seeing the people. And since they built the M Club you can take your family there and have lunch. The Grove is something else and I still get chills walking through it. But even it is different with all the tents. We used to drive up in there and tailgate."
Brown said former Ole Miss Chancellor Dr. Robert Khayat did wonders for the university.
"Dr. Khayat actually played pro ball (Washington Redskins for three years) before he came back home and went to law school," Brown said. "He has really done a lot for the school, and Dr. Daniel Jones will do well as his successor. I see a lot of former teammates when I go up there. I enjoy going back, it's like a family reunion, but it's a lot easier now watching the games on television."
Brown said he feels Houston Nutt is a great hire for Ole Miss.
"The facilities are much better, with an indoor practice field, new weight room and they are talking about closing in the other side," he said. "That would mean 85,000 people at a game. I didn't know there were that many people in North Mississippi. But Coach Nutt will keep the people coming to games because he will continue to do a good job. They struggled a bit this year, but Jevan Snead started slow last year also. It still comes down to tackling and blocking, even though the players are so much bigger."
The Browns have lived on Lake St. John for 15 years. Allen has served on the Lake St. John Advisory Board.
"When we got married, we had a friend who had a place on the lake and he let us stay there until we went to Green Bay," Brown said. "It was next door to Bobby and Neet Marks. We bought a house in Natchez in 1966. We decided then that in 15 years or so we would buy a house on the lake. Twenty-two years later we bought a lot on the lake. We put a for sale sign in front of our house and our neighbor called and wanted to buy it for relatives in New Orleans. So we sold the house and moved to the lake."
Brown retired from Riverside Central Services in Natchez in 2005, after beginning work there in 1976.
"I ran my business like Coach Lombardi," Brown said. "I had good people around me and put them in their right positions."
Brown said he doesn't regret not playing later when ends caught more passes or players made more money.
"I think about that, but then again I can't be any happier than I am right now," he said. "I wouldn't change anything. I love my family, love my church and just enjoy life."
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