Legendary Raiders cornerback Willie Brown has died, the Raiders confirmed on Tuesday. He was 78 years old.
“Willie Brown will forever be cherished as a true Raider," the Raiders 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.”
Brown’s health had declined in recent months, as he took a less active role with the team after years as a public face of the franchise. He was a mainstay in the Raiders' secondary for 12 seasons during a golden era where the Silver and Black won their first Super Bowl. He was a Raiders defensive backs coach for 10 seasons after that, and recently was an ambassador heavily involved in the community and with the team as a staff member over the last two decades.
Brown was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1984 and is a member of the All-Time AFL team and the NFL’s team of the 1970s. He played 204 games as a member of the Broncos and Raiders, recording 52 interceptions and two touchdowns.
His pick-six in Super Bowl XI against Minnesota stands as one of several iconic moments in his illustrious career.
Brown stands among the best defensive backs to ever represent the Raiders, exclusive company considering how many excellent cover men have worn silver and black. Considering his contributions to the organization over the years, he should be counted of the most prominent figures in Raiders history.
He was extremely close with owner Mark Davis and the Raiders alumni base, and his passing comes but a few months after receiver Cliff Branch died unexpectedly. That’s a real blow to the entire Raiders family, which values history and tradition and player contributions as much as any team in the NFL.
Brown was an undrafted free agent out of Grambling State, originally signed with the Houston Oilers in 1963. He was cut and landed with the the Denver Broncos, where he played from 1963-66. Late Raiders owner Al Davis acquired him in trade in 1967 in what was the best moves in franchise history. Brown played physical, bump-and-run man coverage that Davis preferred, and became a superstar defensive back that was difficult to catch passes against. Brown was a five-time All-Pro and a nine-time Pro Bowler.