Remembering Jerome Brown, happy, carefree and funny as hell

Remembering Jerome Brown, happy, carefree and funny as hell

This story originally ran on June 25, 2012.

It was the day before the Eagles-Redskins game at RFK Stadium in 1989, and the Eagles were staying at the Crystal City Marriott in Arlington, Va.

That was the weekend Randall Cunningham signed a contract extension, then went out and passed for 447 yards and five touchdowns as the Eagles rallied back from a 30-14 third-quarter deficit to beat the Redskins 42-37.

That was unforgettable, but so was what happened the day before.

I was walking through the hotel lobby on the way to the gym for a workout. I had grabbed a T-shirt out of my bag, any T-shirt, and I didn’t even notice that the one I grabbed just happened to be emblazoned in large block type with these words: NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL.

I was hardly a Notre Dame fan. I bought the shirt at the Notre Dame bookstore the year before while covering La Salle-Kansas State in the NCAA basketball tournament in South Bend.

So there I was unwittingly wearing a Notre Dame T-shirt walking to the gym and then all of a sudden there’s Jerome Brown, all 300 pounds of raging mock fury, standing in front of me with this little smile and a look on his face that said ... “You're not wearing that shirt near me and getting away with it.”

This was at the height of the Miami-Notre Dame rivalry.

Eleven months earlier, both teams were undefeated when Notre Dame beat Miami 31-30 in the famed Catholics vs. Convicts game in South Bend, voted recently as the greatest win in Fighting Irish history. Notre Dame finished 12-0 and won the national title. Miami didn’t lose again and finished No. 2 in the country.

So Jerome looked at me and smiled and then picked me up and slammed me against the wall while Keith Jackson stood there laughing and saying, “Come on, Jerome, don’t kill him.”

Jerome smashed me two more times face-first against the wall and then let me kind of crumple to the floor and then he stood over me and laughed and said these words that I’ll never forget:

“I’m just messin’ with ya, homes!”

Then he scooped me up, put me back together and sent me hobbling on my way.

And whenever people ask me what Jerome was like, I tell them that story because that’s Jerome in a nutshell. 

He was just this big, huge, massive kid who didn’t have a care in the world, who would do absolutely anything for a laugh, who hadn’t quite grown up yet. Jerome’s playground was everywhere and included whoever happened to be in his way that day, that moment, and that day it was me.

On June 25, 1992, 28 years ago today, Jerome drove his ZR1 Corvette into a tree in his hometown Brooksville, Fla., instantly killing both him and his 13-year-old nephew Gus. Jerome was 27.

Jerome only played five seasons in the NFL, but he was the best defensive tackle I’ve ever seen. He was a ferocious pass rusher, recording 29 1/2 sacks in his five seasons as an Eagle, and an absolute monster against the run. Even on a defense loaded with some of the greatest defenders of our generation - Reggie White, Eric Allen, Seth Joyner, Clyde Simmons, Andre Waters, Wes Hopkins, Byron Evans - Brown stood out.

He was the true heart of that team. He made the Pro Bowl his last two years and was a first-team all-pro both seasons, 1990 and 1991.

I believe Jerome would have been a Hall of Fame defensive tackle if he had played a full career. I’ve never seen that combination of speed, power and fury in one person.

Of course, what made Jerome such a fascinating guy was what he was like off the field.

Jerome was one of the most naturally funny people I’ve ever been around. 

He reminded me so much of John Belushi. He would do anything or say anything, no matter how outrageous, for a laugh.

Jerome’s locker at the Vet was next to Reggie’s, and they were polar opposites, Reggie the pious minister and Jerome the X-rated maniac. 

And we all watched and laughed as Jerome went to great lengths day after day to get Reggie to snap. His comic monologues directed at Reggie grew raunchier and more vulgar by the day, and Reggie would just smile and ignore it.

There was one particular radio guy Jerome loved to torture. He would crawl along the floor and sneak up on the guy day after day and then just let loose this blood-curdling scream that would practically give the radio dude a heart attack. 

“I’m just messing’ with ya, homie!”

Most Jerome Brown stories just can’t be told. 

Not here. 

Ask me some time the Janet Jackson story. Or the story about Jerome in the visiting locker room at Texas Stadium the night the Eagles beat the Cowboys on the last day of the 1988 season to clinch the NFC East title. Or the story about Jerome and the burning car in the parking lot outside the Vet.

But the one thing that really stands out is just what a true team guy Jerome was. For all his antics, he had such a fierce desire to win, and that’s what drove him.

I’ll never forget when Clyde Simmons finally made his first Pro Bowl team in 1991, his sixth NFL season. Clyde had recorded 15 1/2 sacks in a brilliant 1989 season and somehow was bypassed in the Pro Bowl voting, and it tore Jerome apart. When Clyde finally got the nod two years later - in his 6th NFL season - Jerome was so happy he punched his hand through a wall.

That was Jerome.

I stood in the tunnel behind first base at Veterans Stadium 28 years ago today and cried when Reggie stood at a podium behind second base and announced Brown’s death to a stunned crowd of 60,000 attending a Billy Graham Crusade.

“I came here tonight to give my personal testimony,” Reggie’s voice rang over the speakers. “But I'm going to have to alter that. My best friend, Jerome Brown, died tonight.”

It’s impossible not to wonder what kind of person Jerome would have become. Behind all the antics and bluster there was a genuinely kind-hearted young man. He had already started a football camp for kids down in Brooksville. He loved working with kids. He wanted to do the right thing.

We lost Jerome in 1992, Reggie in 2004, Andre in 2006, Wes in 2018. Some of the greatest players and personalities in Eagles history.

Honestly, when Jerome goofed around with me up at the hotel that day in 1989, I thought I separated my shoulder. It hurt. 

I’m glad it happened, though. Because it helps me remember Jerome the way he really was. 

Happy, carefree, spontaneous. And funny as hell.

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A lost opportunity for Sidney Jones in Roob's 10 Observations

A lost opportunity for Sidney Jones in Roob's 10 Observations

A lost opportunity for Sidney Jones, an unbelievable Sam Bradford stat and the continuing saga of Reb Russell.

It's all right here in this weekend's Roob's 10 Eagles Observations! 

1. I keep trying to convince myself, "This will be the year we see the real Sidney Jones." And coming out of last year, I really believed Jones, going into Year 4, had a chance to really get his legs healthy this spring and then show everybody in minicamps, OTAs, training camp and the preseason games that he could hold down the CB2 opposite Darius Slay. But if the curtailed offseason and preseason hurts anybody the most, it's Jones. The Eagles have made it clear Avonte Maddox is the projected starter, and as long Maddox stays healthy I don't see how Sidney can win the job. Without any spring workouts or preseason games? Can Jones do enough just in a few weeks of training camp practice to beat out Maddox? I don't think so.

2. Who has the highest 4th-quarter passer rating among Eagles quarterbacks? Going back to 1994, as far back as the Pro Football Reference database logs quarter-by-quarter stats, here's the surprising answer (minimum of 100 4th-quarter attempts):

95.9 ... Sam Bradford

88.4 ... Michael Vick

84.5 ... Carson Wentz

83.6 ... Donovan McNabb

81.9 ... Nick Foles

76.9 ... Rodney Peele

76.7 ... Mark Sanchez

70.3 ... Ty Detmer

64.1 ... Bobby Hoying

62.7 ... Randall Cunningham

59.0 ... Koy Detmer 

(Remember, this only includes Randall's last two years with the Eagles) 

3. As good as T.O. was in 2004, he was on his way to an even bigger season in 2005 before he imploded and got himself suspended. Owens was 47-for-763 with 6 TDs after seven games, which put him on pace for 107 catches and 1,744 yards with 13 TDs. The only players in NFL history to reach those plateaus in a season are Jerry Rice and Isaac Bruce. T.O.'s 93.5 yards per game as an Eagle is 23 yards per game more than any other WR in franchise history. DeSean Jackson (69.7), Mike Quick (64.0), Irving Fryar (63.9) and Jeremy Maclin (63.6) are next.

4. If the NFL does wind up reducing rosters from 90 to 75 because of the curtailed or eliminated preseason and for social distancing purposes, the league needs to give each team the opportunity to retain the rights of some or all of the players they're forced to release. Maybe pay them a weekly reduced salary and let them participate in virtual meetings and remain part of the team without actually being at practice. It would be a shame to see the Eagles forced to cut ties with promising kids like Adrian Killians Jr., Grayland Arnold, Raequan Williams, Mike Warren, Sua Opeta or Deontay Burnett because of the current circumstances. The league and the NFLPA need to find a way to make sure that doesn't happen.

5. I just remembered the Eagles paid Nelson Agholor $9.387 million last year.

6. The Frankford Yellow Jackets won the 1926 NFL Championship, but by the early 1930s, they may have been the worst professional sports team in Philadelphia history. They won only 3 of their last 24 games and scored 7 or fewer points in 20 of those 24 games. 

7. What are the odds that the Eagles' two recent Hall of Famers — Brian Dawkins and Harold Carmichael — went to the same high school? Both graduated from Raines High in Jacksonville. Raines has produced numerous other NFL players, including Lito Sheppard, Shawn Jefferson and Ken Burrough, along with baseball's Vince Coleman. Surprisingly, 16 high schools produced multiple Hall of Famers, including one — George Washington in L.A. — that produced three (James Lofton, Hugh McElhenny, Bill Walsh). 

8. Carson Wentz's 32 wins are 15th-most in NFL history by a quarterback in his first four seasons. He's also one of only five of the top 20 that didn't win a playoff game during those four years. The others are Matt Ryan, Andy Dalton, Steve Grogan, Peyton Manning and Carson Palmer. Ryan won one in his 5th season, Manning in his 6th and Palmer in his 14th. Dalton and Grogan never did win one. One of these years, Wentz will win one. Right?

9. Donovan McNabb had already won four playoff games and reached two NFC Championship Games by the end of his fourth season.

10. Everyone seemed to enjoy last week's excerpt from newspaper coverage of the Eagles' first game in franchise history in 1933, so here's an excerpt from the Inquirer story reporting the first win in franchise history, 6-0 over the Reds later in 1933: 

"Tall, slab-sided, loose-limbed Swede Hanson, the new Galloping Ghost of the commercial gridiron, raced over the last white stripe today, as the Philadelphia Eagles achieved their first conquest of the season, 6-0. Hanson, lean and lank and lantern jawed, was the hero of this game, as he has starred in all of the frays in which the Eagles have been a part. For two periods, the Birds and their Red foes battered away at the line or sought the air but all in vain. In the third quarter, however, the Wraymen turned into a devastating horde." 

The story goes on to describe Hanson's touchdown, the game's only score: 

"It was fourth down now and the goal line beckoning in tantalizing fashion straight ahead. Then Hanson and (Reb) Russell outwtitted their foes. Reb came tearing in as if to shoot off tackle. The Reds tumbled through upon the former Purple hero, however, who was ready for this emergency. As the gang tried to pile up, Russell flipped a lateral, straight and unerring, right into Hanson's arms. Like a flash, the Swede lighted out for the end, slipped past two tackles and went over the line."

Wraymen? Really? Remember, that team's coach was Lud Wray. Guess I should start calling the Eagles the Dougmen?

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Report: NFLPA board unanimously recommends to cancel entire preseason 

Report: NFLPA board unanimously recommends to cancel entire preseason 

Just two days after we learned the NFL’s plan to cut the 2020 preseason in half, the NFL Players Association is reportedly recommending that the league cancel the entire preseason. 

The NFLPA’s board of representatives voted unanimously on the recommendation, according to ESPN. 

On Wednesday, ProFootballTalk reported that the NFL was cutting the preseason in half because of the coronavirus pandemic, keeping Weeks 2 and 3 but eliminating Weeks 1 and 4. Other reports indicated that those preseason games would be pushed back later into August. 

If the Eagles end up playing the original Weeks 2 and 3 of their preseason schedule, they will face the Dolphins on the road and the Patriots at home. They were originally scheduled to be at Indianapolis in Week 1 and at home against the Jets in Week 4, but those games have already been canceled. 

The NFL is still planning for training camps to begin on July 28 with rookies and select vets allowed to report earlier. 

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said earlier this offseason that his team will need the entire five-to-six-week training camp to get ready for the 2020 season, especially after missing the entire spring workout schedule because of the pandemic. 

The Eagles are scheduled to begin their 2020 regular season in Washington on Sept. 13. 

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