/RIP Willie Brown, who never forgot Mushroom Street or Yazoo City

RIP Willie Brown, who never forgot Mushroom Street or Yazoo City

Our conversation focused on Super Bowl XI. It was 26 years ago that Brown intercepted Fran Tarkenton’s ball and raced 75 yards to the end zone. This allowed Brown to enter into NFL Films zooming lens and pro football history. We also talked about Brown’s most memorable play in his 16-year NFL career. Brown was more friendly, more open to talking about his past, and more happy to meet someone from his state. We’ll talk about Yazoo later, but let’s first discuss the play that has been re-enacted thousands of times since its 1977 debut. Brown said that he knew exactly what was going to happen. It was exactly the same as the night before. “In fact, Gene Upshaw was the one who told me exactly what was going on.” Brown was assigned to the play to cover Sammy White, a dangerous young receiver for the Vikings. White was also a Grambling man. Brown stated, “I knew what was going to happen.” Brown said, “I knew Fran would throw to Sammy on a quick sideline pattern, so i gave a look that I was going back and then I broke on this.” Brown was on his way to the Super Bowl-clinching touchdown. Brown was a picture of determination and fierce determination as he raced into history. Brown stated that “they show it over-and-over on ESPN, especially during Super Bowl Week.” “I suppose I have seen it approximately a million times,” Brown said. Which brought up the next question: Does he ever get tired of it? Brown smiled and then laughed. He said, “Would it be?” Brown stated, “That’s all I’ve been telling my guys this week.” Brown was 60 years of age when we spoke. Brown was as fit, muscular, and trim as possible. Brown started our conversation by saying, “It’s so nice to see somebody out here from Mississippi,” We talked a lot about Mississippi. He was the greatest cornerback in football history! I shared with him the story of Willie Morris, my friend from Yazoo, and how Willie would sometimes refer to himself as “that other Willie” from Yazoo City. Morris is only the greatest cornerback of football history!” He was not far behind when it came down to a ranking for NFL cornerbacks. In 1984, Brown was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. This was his first year of eligibility. Brown grew up in a segregated Yazoo City just like Morris. Brown said that he still has fond memories of Mushroom Street from his childhood. He told me that he had six siblings and two sisters. “I was blessed with a great mama and a great daddy.” “We were raised right. “We were raised right. Morris often wrote about the segregated times of his childhood. He wrote in My Dog Skip about working at the Yazoo No. 2 football games. Morris wrote, “I’d have to be the only boy of white there, and Skip would have to be the only dog of white.” Brown said, “Yes, schools were segregated, but what many people don’t realize is that we played pick up games with white kids all the way through high school.” We just played, and didn’t care a lot about it. We were initially against them but we started to pick sides and played. “We just played ball.” Brown was a coach for Peter Boston, Ralph Boston’s brother and Olympic track champion. Brown stated that Coach Boston was a great coach and taught him so much about football. “The funny part is that I played both offense & defense, but I scored more touchdowns in defense.” Eddie Robinson was the Grambling legend coach who successfully recruited Brown from Mississippi. He eventually became a full-time cornerback. As they say, the rest is history. Brown intercepted 54 passes during his time as a professional. He was selected to the all time all-AFL team. He was named to several all-time All Pro teams. He was perhaps the greatest cornerback ever – another example Mississippi’s extraordinary contributions to pro football history.