Tuesday, December 28, 2004

By Nick Wagoner
Staff Writer

It eventually got to the point of being ridiculous. Bob Brown, one of the most dominant offensive linemen ever to play the game had fallen into a routine.

For five consecutive years, Brown was nominated for the Hall of Fame. That first year, he was hopeful, almost confident. It didn’t happen. The next year, he felt like it was simply an aberration the first time, this time he would almost certainly get the call. Again, no dice.

So, it continued, each year coming and going and taking with it a little piece of confidence for the self-described egomaniac.

“I know I had a big ego, but I honesty believed I could block anything that came from a woman and was able to stand up like a man,” Brown said. Finally, this year, Brown had all but given up on his dream of being immortalized in Canton.

On the day he was supposed to find out if he made it or not, Brown did not sit by the telephone waiting for it to ring. He had been disappointed too many times. Then, as he walked down the hallway at his house, the phone rang. Surely, Brown thought, this isn’t the call I have waited for.

“I went through every emotion a person can go through,” Brown said. “I just tried not to stand by the phone like a 16-year old waiting for a prom date.”

Brown picked up the phone; it was the Hall of Fame finally calling after all those years. He was more than ready to be enshrined in football’s tribute to its greatest legends. He traveled to Canton, where he would be inducted alongside some of the game’s more recent superstars John Elway and Barry Sanders.

Here Brown was, an offensive lineman, with his 37-year old soon introducing him. It was the best feeling of his life, alternately claiming he was speechless, but often going as far as creating new words.

“Magnificent, fantastic, splendiferous,” Brown would call that day.

It was a day that was about 40 years in the making. Brown started his career in 1964 with the Philadelphia Eagles, where he spent five “OK” seasons. Make no mistake, he played at a high level, but the situation wasn’t what he wanted. Then, he moved to the Los Angeles Rams.

This was it, the chance he had eagerly anticipated. He would get to practice every day against one of the greatest players of all-time, Deacon Jones, and play for an organization he always respected. Brown went to the Pro Bowl three times with Philadelphia, but it wasn’t until he got to Los Angeles that he met his potential. A lot of that had to do with playing Jones.

“With him it was either get better or get destroyed,” Brown said. “I chose get better.”

He spent just two seasons with the Rams, but he established himself as one of the league’s most feared tackles in that time. He went to the Pro Bowl in 1969 and 1970 and retired after three more seasons in the league. In all, he made six Pro Bowl appearances.

So, with that kind of domination, how was Brown not a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame? To this day, he doesn’t have an explanation for it. For years, he had well-wishers that would express their disbelief. Others would express shock when they found out he wasn’t enshrined already.

“I didn’t understand it,” Brown said. “The village idiot could see that this guy (I) was supposed to be there.”

Even the St. Louis Rams were well aware that Brown should be there and that is why he will be honored tonight for his contributions. After entering the Hall of Fame, Brown said there couldn’t be a better feeling, but the thought of being honored in a city where he didn’t even play, but for a franchise he fondly remembers, gives him a “warm, fuzzy feeling.”

“It is such a class move,” Brown said. “To be honored by an organization like that…I never thought they would even know what a Bob Brown was.”

For many years, it seemed nobody knew what a Bob Brown was. Now, the whole world can know him as it should, as a Hall of Famer.