Willie Brown

Jon Gruden very 'torn up' by passing of Raiders legend Willie Brown

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Jon Gruden very 'torn up' by passing of Raiders legend Willie Brown

The Raider family lost a beloved member of the family Tuesday when legendary Raiders cornerback Willie Brown died at the age of 78.

Brown was a treasured member of the Silver and Black and his passing hit head coach Jon Gruden hard.

"We're really sad about losing one of the great Raiders and great people that I've met, Willie Brown," Gruden told the media Wednesday. "Our heart is really torn up, man. He was one great guy great player, One of the reasons I came back to coach was to be with Willie Brown. So our condolences go to his family and all the Raiders players that played with him and knew him. I'm sure they share in our grief. God bless Willie Brown. 

Late Raiders owner Al Davis traded for Brown in 1967, and it was one of the most impactful moves in franchise history. Brown played for the Raiders for 12 seasons, with his pick-six in Super Bowl XI against Minnesota serving as one of the iconic moments of his illustrious career.

A physical cornerback, Brown was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1984. He served as the Raiders defensive backs coach for 10 seasons and was one of the public faces of the franchise before his health started to decline.

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Brown is the latest member of the Raiders family to pass, just two months after Cliff Branch died.

"It's been hard," Gruden said. "Especially for Mark Davis and his mom that grew up with these guys. These are legendary players and great people, and it's hard to swallow losing Cliff and certainly losing Willie and as you mentioned several of the other men that we have lost. But that's life. None of us are guaranteed the next day. That's why you live for the moment and pay your respects the best way that you can."

Mark Davis, John Madden, others remember Raiders legend Willie Brown

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Mark Davis, John Madden, others remember Raiders legend Willie Brown

Willie Brown was beloved inside the Raiders organization, and out. The Hall of Fame cornerback and Silver and Black mainstay made a positive impression on most everyone, no matter how long they were with the franchise.

That has been clear on social media, with condolences and memories told from so many who met him after news broke Tuesday that Brown had died at 78 years old.

Raiders owner Mark Davis knew Brown as well as anyone. He was close with the entire Davis family, including late owner Al Davis and Mark’s mother Carol. That’s a main reason why Brown’s death hit Mark Davis hard.

“It’s a very sad day for the Raider Nation as a whole, and for my family in particular,” Davis said in a statement. "Willie Brown was one of the greatest to ever play the game. But it was off the field, and how he treated my mom for which I will forever be indebted to him.

"Every road trip, it was Willie who helped my mom up and down the stairs of the plane. It was Willie who joined her for all dinners on the road. It was Willie who came to her every birthday and Mother’s Day dinner. It was Willie who was her best friend. We loved and will miss you, Willie.”

Former Raiders head coach John Madden also expressed his sorrow for Brown’s loss.

“Willie Brown was a true Raider and one of the best cornerbacks that ever played the game,” Madden said in a statement. “It was a comfort to a coach to be able to have Willie Brown in the defensive backfield. Willie was a good guy, a team captain, and a true Raider from the day he joined our team in 1967, until he passed away today.

"He will be missed by me and the entire Raiders organization.”

Those not old enough to remember Brown’s playing days or his work as a coach certainly know about his tradition of wishing an early “Happy Mother’s Day,” before announcing the team’s second-round pick. He read Derek Carr’s name back in 2014, a moment the quarterback never will forget.

Even NFL commissioner Roger Goodell issued a statement about Brown’s passing, remembering the dominant player and the Raiders ambassador.

"We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Raiders' great Willie Brown,” Goodell’s statement read. “As a player, coach, and executive, Willie served as a tremendous ambassador for the Raiders and football for more than 50 years. He will forever be immortalized by NFL Films with his iconic 75-yard interception return in Super Bowl XI as he ran straight into the camera and our imaginations.

"After a remarkable 16-year Pro Football Hall of Fame career that he began as an undrafted free agent, Willie went on to become a Raiders coach and later a member of the team's front office. Willie lived the Raiders' motto "Commitment to Excellence" with integrity and touched the lives of hundreds of NFL players with his wisdom and wit. Willie was always a welcome guest at the NFL Draft and I enjoyed visiting with him each year. He was always enthusiastic and optimistic about the Raiders' picks and upcoming season.

"We extend our condolences to Willie's family, the Raiders organization, and fans around the world."

Raiders legendary Hall of Fame cornerback Willie Brown dies at age 78

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AP

Raiders legendary Hall of Fame cornerback Willie Brown dies at age 78

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.