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Catching Up With ... former Colt Ray Brown

Each Tuesday in The Toy Department, veteran Baltimore Sun sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's happening in his/her life in a segment called. "Catching Up With ... " Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ... "

On one wall of Ray Brown’s office hangs his law diploma and other professional awards. Across the room are a different set of treasures – team photos of the 1958 and 1959 world champion Baltimore Colts, for whom Brown played.

Guess where his visitors head first.

Ray Brown"It’s always football," said Brown, 72, a Mississippi attorney who helped put the Colts on the NFL map.

Don’t remember Ray Brown? He played three seasons in Baltimore, then quit the game to join the bar. Yet he had a big role in the team’s first title run 51 years ago.

A rookie safety in 1958, Brown started every game for the Colts, the only first-year player to do so that season. His eight interceptions tied for the club lead. He also punted, and his lofty 51-yard average in the Colts’ 23-17 sudden-death victory over the New York Giants remains an NFL championship game record.

His secret that day?

"Adrenalin," Brown said.

All of this, he achieved while also attending law school at the University of Maryland in Baltimore.

"I’d get up every morning, grab a brown-bag lunch from my wife and go to classes," he said. "Then I’d zip up to Memorial Stadium and eat lunch while studying films. After practice, I’d go home and work on my law briefs."

Did he ever sleep?

"It wasn’t that bad," Brown said of the regimen. "Those were great times with the Colts. We were grateful to be playing, and there were no prima donnas or (sports) agents or drugs. It was a different game."

In 1959, besides his defensive chores, Brown became understudy to quarterback to John Unitas.Ray Brown

"John called most of his own plays, but occasionally Weeb (Ewbank, the coach) would send one in," Brown said. Once, he recalled, Ewbank relayed to Unitas these directions: "Just score."

The Colts repeated as champs.

Brown played one more year and then, at age 25, he walked away. Why? The Colts had slipped to fourth place. Brown needed knee surgery. And he was near to getting that law degree, which came in 1962.

His diligence paid off. That summer, he took a coveted job as law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Tom Clark. Two years after leaving football, Brown walked those hallowed halls in Washington, D.C. But it couldn’t match the thrill of stepping on the field at Yankee Stadium for the ’58 title game, he said.

"What a fantastic time we had," said Brown. "I remember driving home from New York with my family after the game, stopping for dinner at a Howard Johnson’s and having the waitress say, ‘Mr. Brown, your family’s meal has been paid for by a Colts’ fan (who’d already left the restaurant).’

"The guy hadn’t even asked for autographs. That’s how grateful people were that we’d won."

A practicing attorney for 46 years, Brown started his own law firm in 1987 and still works from his home in Gautier, Miss. Married 51 years, he has three children, eight grandchildren and a cranky right knee that is giving him fits "from kicking thousands of punts as a player."

Past president of the Mississippi Bar, Brown wears his ’58 Colts championship ring and, on occasion, the blue-and-white team jacket that the club gave him. At 195 pounds, he hasn’t gained an ounce.

Two years ago, the Wall Street Journal selected an all-time law football team including, among others, former President Gerald Ford, the late Supreme Court Justice Byron (Whizzer) White . . . and Brown, the Colts’ fifth-round draft pick from Mississippi.

"When I saw that article, I thought, ‘My goodness,’ " Brown said. "Then I framed it and hung it on the wall with the rest."

Top photo: AP; Bottom photo: George C. Cook / Baltimore Sun

Comments

Terrific article, Mike! Brought back fond memories of the ‘58 classic. Although I was there, with my girl friend that day in Yankee Stadium, I didn’t fully appreciate the significant role that Ray Brown’s play had in that win. Thanks for spotlighting his important contributions to the “greatest game.” Also, glad to see that Brown has had a life “after” pro football, in the Law, which has proved so satisfying to him and to his community in Mississippi.

I wonder how many athletes Brown has defended over the years from breaking the law? LOL

GREAT IDEA AND A GREATER STORY.BROWN WORE (17) .
I REMEMBER THE "GREATEST GAME EVER PLAYED" AND MY GOODNESS DOES IT BRINGS A SMILE TO MY FAME.
TRIVIA THE COLT WHO FOLLOWED IN THE PUNTING JOB WAS TOM GILBERG A RESERVE OFFENSIVE TACKLE FROM SYRACUSE
GREAT ARTICLE
THANKS

Thanks for the interesting article, Mike. The Howard Johnson story really says a lot about how pro sports have changed in 50 years. Fans today would proably want that autograph in return. Then again, athletes today are known to sell their autographs.

What a phenomenal day Ray had punting. Pinning the Giants back repeatedly was a crucial factor in the Colts' win.

Speaking of punting, I couldn't help but notice the photo of Ray and what looks to be, of all things, tennis shoes. If you happen to read this Ray, I'm curious: Did you normally practice in tennis shoes? And if so, why? Thanks for the great Colt moments!

Q. was why tennis shoes? As I recall, from 50 years ago, Saturdays were light before Sunday games. A little loosening up, a little passing, catching, kicking, and mental work on the game plan, alignments, assignments, and not going full speed, so that no one gets hurt. Tennis shoes and sweats were popular and O.K. on these days. That's my best memory.
Ray Brown

Ray, do you remember the juke box y'all had in your home behind the Delish Shoppe? A bunch of us teenagers who hung out at the Delish Shoppe (Then in an old service station Main & Harvey) would visit your home and play the juke box FREE. You were a little fellow at the time. We followed your great career at both Ole Miss and Baltimore.
Paul Artman

Ray, Thanks for the heads-up on the shoes. That makes a lot of sense. How great to think back to when the Colts had their own marching band and fight song. What was it like to play with Art Donovan? That guy tells some of the funniest stories!

Thanks for the aricule. I hardly remember Ray Brown since so many of those Colts remained locals and became so chairshed by all of Baltimore. I now know how big a piece of the puzzle Ray Brown was. Like so many Colts he must have been a hell of a football player, and more importantly a top notch guy. "The Baltimore Colts" - there will never be another. Baltimore was blessed.

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