Larry Brown came to the Redskins via the eighth round of the 1969 NFL Draft.
He would go down as one of the greatest “bargains” in NFL history.
After all, Brown was primarily a blocking back during his career at Kansas State. The Wildcats, like the Redskins, featured a pass-first offense. Vince Lombardi saw potential in the tough, hard-running Brown, though—enough to warrant a down-the-line draft pick.
What Lombardi didn’t realize until he had Brown in camp was that something was “off” about the way he played. He noticed that Brown didn’t seem to be in-sync with the rest of the offense. Being a half-step slow at the snap seemed odd for a player with good speed and quickness.
Lombardi had Brown tested. As it turned out, Brown was deaf in one ear. Lombardi asked the NFL for permission to fit Brown’s helmet with a small speaker that would allow the running back to hear the snap count much more clearly. The league agreed.
It made a difference.
Brown was an immediate contributor. Even in the Redskins’ pass-focused offense, Brown ran for 888 yards and four touchdowns, making the Pro Bowl as a rookie. Brown did even better the following year, winning the rushing title with 1,125 yards and five touchdowns on the ground, adding 341 yards and two touchdowns through the air. He made his second Pro Bowl, as well as being named All-Pro.
Another Pro Bowl season followed in 1971, but his crowning achievement came in ‘72. Leading the Redskins to the Super Bowl, Brown ran for 1,216 yards and eight scores. He also tallied 473 receiving yards and four more touchdowns. His scrimmage-yard total of 1,689 led the NFL.
That outstanding performance not only won Brown a fourth consecutive Pro Bowl spot and another All-Pro selection, but it also earned him the 1972 NFL MVP Award, making Brown the first Redskin to win the honor. He achieved all of this while missing two games due to injury.
Brown had another productive season in 1973, gaining 1,342 scrimmage yards and leading the NFL with 14 total touchdowns. However, that would be the last season that Brown would start every game. Injuries began to catch up with him, and he only started 19 games over the next three years, including a pure back-up role during the 1976 season.
That year turned out to be Brown’s last in the NFL. He retired at the age of 29. At the time, he was the Redskins’ all-time franchise leader in rushing yards and touchdowns scored. He finished his somewhat brief career with 8,360 scrimmage yards in 102 games played.
Brown earned recognition as one of the 70 Greatest Redskins, as well gaining entry to Redskins’ Ring of Fame. He was a Bert Bell Award winner, an AP NFL MVP, the NFC Player of the Year, and the NFL Offensive Player of the Year. Few Redskins have ever been so decorated.
Larry Brown will never be forgotten by Redskins fans who followed the team in the 1970s. He is one of the greatest ever to suit up in the burgundy and gold, and he takes his well-deserved place among the Redskin elite as Washington’s all-time #43.
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