Roger Brown finally will be recognized in Canton for his career as a dominant defensive tackle, but not quite at the level he has hoped.
The announcement last week that the Black College Football Hall of Fame will be relocated from Atlanta to a permanent home in Canton to share quarters with the Pro Football Hall of Fame left Brown mostly proud and happy but a little wistful.
Brown was inducted into the Black College Hall in 2015 for his play at Maryland State, but he has long aspired to make the Pro Football Hall.
His credentials are worthy — a six-time Pro Bowler and twice first-team All-Pro, in a career that began with the Detroit Lions and ended with the Los Angeles Rams.
“At least I got into Canton,” Brown said in a telephone interview from his home in Portsmouth, Va. “It’s not the way I wanted to, but there you go.
“I would love to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Not coming in the back door, but the front door.”
Brown was a two-time NAIA All-American (1958-59) at Maryland State, since renamed Maryland Eastern Shore.
He was a fourth-round draft pick by the Lions in 1960. He played seven seasons in Detroit before being traded to the Rams in 1967, where he played his final three seasons.
Brown, who turned 79 on May 1, was a prototype for the modern-era defensive tackle.
At the time, there were a lot of big tackles and a lot of quick, fast tackles.
But Brown was a rarity. He was big (6-5, 300 pounds),fast AND quick.
He has another distinction as the only man to play on the two teams whose defensive lines were popularly known as The Fearsome Foursome.
The Lions had the NFL’s original. Brown and Alex Karras were the tackles, with Darris McCord and Sam Williams at end.
In Los Angeles, Brown replaced Rosey Grier at tackle and played with Merlin Olsen, Lamar Lundy and Deacon Jones.
In Detroit, Brown played a dominating role in one of the most famous games in franchise history — the 26-14 victory over the Packers on Thanksgiving Day at old Tiger Stadium in 1962.
It was a revenge game for the Lions for a 9-7 loss to the Packers earlier in the year.
The Lions sacked Packers quarterback Bart Starr 11 times. Sacks were not an official statistic, but Brown was in on at least seven of the sacks, according to the official play-by-play.
Brown nearly made the Pro Football Hall in 2009 as a senior candidate. In the last stage of the voting that puts two seniors on the final ballot, Brown finished in a tie with former Atlanta Falcons defensive lineman Claude Humphrey.
Humphrey won the elimination vote. He eventually was voted into the Hall as a senior in 2014 with statistics almost identical to Brown’s — six Pro Bowls, All-Pro twice — but achieved in a 14-year career, four years longer than Brown’s.
It is a long shot, but not an impossibility, that Brown will get another chance to make the Pro Football Hall as a senior.
For now, he is happy that the move to Canton will elevate the Black College Hall’s stature and visibility.
“I think it’s a smart move,” Brown said in a telephone interview from his home in Portsmouth, Va. “I like the fact that we’re making it a unanimous thing.
“I’ve got my rings.”
His “rings” are recognition for his college career. In addition to the Black College Hall he also has been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
No doubt, he has six fingers and two thumbs that could accommodate another.