This one was fun for me -- while I know all about most of the guys on this list, Dave Brown is not one of them. As I sit here at the age of 25, Brown was just a little before my time.
Without the benefit of having watched him play, however, one thing is eminently clear: he could play.
What about Dave Brown?
Dave Brown came to Michigan via Akron, Ohio, moving on to Ann Arbor to play for Bo from 1972-1974. While defensive backs might not be the first position group that comes to mind when you think Michigan under Bo, Brown was one of the best.
From his safety position, Brown racked up 73, 76 and 63 tackles in his three seasons, not to mention 18 pass break-ups; maybe that might not seem like a lot to you, but remember what 1970s football was like. Adjusting for inflation, those numbers probably look a lot better if he played today. He also reeled in nine interceptions, and was a co-captain in 1974.
But that wasn't all he did. He also returned punts, and was quite good at it. A guy named Desmond Howard streaked 93 yards down the left sideline against Ohio State in 1991, en route to a score and an iconic moment in college football history. Hello Heisman.
That 93-yard sprint into our collective college football consciousness broke a record for longest punt return in Michigan history. The previous record holder? None other than Dave Brown, with an 88-yarder in 1974 against Colorado.
Brown also garnered three-time All Big Ten selection, and was a two-time consensus All American. On top of that, he was also selected to the Michigan all-century team, if all those other accolades weren't enough.
After Michigan, he joined the pro ranks as a first-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers, with whom he'd win a Super Bowl ring in 1975. He embarked on a long and fruitful career as a cornerback, finally retiring in 1989 after a decade with the then-expansion Seattle Seahawks and three years with the Green Bay Packers. Near the tail end of his stint with the Seahawks, he garnered Pro Bowl honors in 1984.
He still sits tied for 9th in interceptions in NFL history with 62 (tied with Dick LeBeau)
Tragically, Brown passed away in 2006 at the age of 52, 10 months before his former Michigan head coach.
The case for Dave Brown
Former Michigan safety great Don Dufek on Brown:
"He's one of the greatest athletes I've ever seen," former Michigan and Seahawks safety Don Dufek told the Lubbock newspaper. "I was fortunate to play with him all through college and the pros. ... The remarkable thing is he never got hurt. I never remember him hardly being sick."
If you were piecing together a Dream Team Michigan cornerbacking corps, Charles Woodson undoubtedly occupies on spot, and you can debate his counterpart on the other side until the cows come home. However, Brown without a doubt is in that conversation, and Sure, it was a different time, and the game is played differently now, even in the stodgy old Big Ten -- but, by the time he completed his NFL career, much had already changed by then (including his alma mater taking to this "passing" fad, pun intended).
He won just about every award you could win in college short of the Heisman, and was a co-captain, no small distinction for a Bo-led team. Not only could he hit and make plays on the ball, he returned punts too; he wasn't some plodding, run-stopping-only safety. This was a guy who simply balled, and did it in a number of ways on the field.
I'm sure there are many older than I already familiar with Brown's exploits, both as a Wolverine and an NFLer. This was a fun exercise, especially as I had no idea Michigan produced a defensive back that is top 10 in interceptions in NFL history who isn't named Charles Woodson (for the record, Woodson is tied for 11th with 58 picks).
His post-Michigan career only serves to underscore the player he was. Brown performed at an elite level, and holds all sorts of Seahawks franchise records, not to mention being inducted into Seattle's
Forget about the Legion of Boom: it's all about Dave Brown.
Cast your vote for Michigan's Mount Rushmore at BTN.com.