By Craig Ellenport
Offensive tackle Bob Brown had waited 26 years and was a finalist five times before finally being selected by the seniors committee to join the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2004. But upon hearing his son present him at the enshrinement ceremony Sunday afternoon, one had to wonder: why did it take so long?
Robert Brown Jr. is a civil litigator in California, and the passionate introduction he gave for his father was as persuasive as any argument he could have made in a court of law.
"Please believe me when I tell you, he was a sight to behold," Brown Jr. said of his dad. "Six feet, four inches, 295 pounds of sheer man. And as an offensive lineman, he can do it all, and what's more, he could do it all in devastating fashion.
"The only way I can describe his style is to say that it was beautifully relentless," Brown Jr. continued. "He was a wondrous blend of speed, power, agility and quickness, always on the attack, always making contact, always inflicting punishment. Pure, unadulterated, unbridled intensity and aggression for 60 minutes -- play in and play out, no rest, no relief."
Of course, Bob Brown's teammates and opponents alike did not need to be convinced here in Canton. They saw it firsthand in a Hall of Fame career that spanned 10 seasons and three teams.
"When I played against Bob Brown, if I just came out of there alive I would feel so good," said former Vikings defensive end Carl Eller, who joined Brown, Barry Sanders and John Elway in the Class of 2004.
Brown, 62, was named all-NFL seven times in 10 seasons. The first thing any of his contemporaries say about him is that he was the first offensive lineman to play with a defensive lineman's mentality. Nicknamed "The Boomer," it was his mission to do whatever it took to take his opponent out of the game. And for five seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, two with the Los Angeles Rams and three with the Oakland Raiders, he accomplished that task more often than not.
"He was such a dominating player," says John Madden, his coach with the Raiders. "He was the most aggressive offensive lineman that I think I've ever seen, the most aggressive offensive lineman that ever played."
More Madden: "Bob Brown used to always say that if he could get the right hit on a defensive end - hit him in the right place, like the solar plexus or something - that he could take a quarter out of him. And he used to do it. He'd hit a guy in the first quarter and say, 'I won't see him again until the third quarter.'"
A first-round pick of the Eagles in 1964, Brown was one of the first professional football players to embrace weight training and year-round conditioning. His prowess in the weight room became legendary. One year with the Raiders, fellow Hall of Famer Art Shell tried to follow Brown's routine. "He just killed me," recalled Shell.
"I took to it like a duck to water," Brown said of the weight training. "I went five hours a day, seven days a week."
Brown went to the Rams in 1969, and he lined up in practice every day against Hall of Fame defensive end Deacon Jones. Brown paid his respects to his good friend in his enshrinement speech.
"What really made the Ram experience so good was that every day I had the opportunity to work with and against the greatest defensive end ever, Deacon Jones," said Brown. "Each day, I knew I had to bring my A-game to practice. And I also knew that working against Deacon would surely help me develop my abilities to become a better offensive tackle. My thinking being, if it doesn't kill me, the process will certainly make me stronger. I want to say a special thank you to Deacon, because what he did helped lead me to this."
Jones joined his Hall of Fame brethren in singing Brown's praises. "He's a linebacker in an offensive lineman's body, he had a cold-blooded mentality," said Jones. "He'd kill a mosquito with an ax."
Then, Jones echoed what so many of Brown's supporters had been thinking: "I'm just happy," Jones said, "the Hall of Fame gave him his justice."