Dave Brown arrived as an angry young man in 1976, but was one of the most admired – and best – players in franchise history by the time he left after the 1986 season as the franchise’s all-time leader with 50 interceptions.
As Jim Zorn remembers it, Dave Brown arrived in 1976 as an angry young man.
Who could blame him? When the athletic defensive back was selected by the Seahawks in the March veteran allocation draft, Brown was 11 months removed from being a first-round draft choice by the Pittsburgh Steelers and 10 weeks earlier had won a Super Bowl as a rookie.
Suddenly, he was a stranger on a strange team – the eclectic mix that made up the Seahawks’ expansion team.
“When Dave came to the Seahawks, he was an angry man – he was wounded,” said Zorn, the quarterback on that first Seahawks team. “He didn’t like people. He was standoffish. I can’t say he was real negative, because he wouldn’t talk to me that much.”
Slowly and surely, Brown warmed to his new surroundings. He led the Seahawks in tackles that first season, while playing free safety; was voted to the Pro Bowl in 1984 as a cornerback; and by the time he was inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor in 1992 he was the franchise’s career leader in interceptions (50) and had returned to coach the team’s defensive backs (1992-98).
And, he became one of the most admired players – and people – in franchise history.
“If you were to ask me what person changed – inside and out – more than any other player you’ve seen, I would have to put Dave as one of the top two or three guys,” Zorn said. “Dave always was an excellent player, but he became an excellent person, as well.”
It’s a legacy that should make the late Brown a lock for the franchise’s 35th Anniversary team, which will be selected by the readers of Seahawks.com.
His death – from a heart attack while playing basketball – is even tied to a milestone moment in franchise history. Brown passed away Jan. 10, 2006, the week the Seahawks began the playoff run to their only Super Bowl appearance. Brown was six days shy of his 50th birthday.
“Dave was a great guy,” said Terry Beeson, a middle linebacker who joined the Seahawks in 1977 and led the team in tackles his first three seasons. “He absolutely was one of the most class persons that I’ve ever been around.”
Offered Joe Nash, who came to the Seahawks in 1982 and developed into a Pro Bowl defensive tackle: “Dave was a great person. A great teammate. And truly a leader.”
How did Brown go from so angry to so admired?
“Probably the biggest change in his life was when he decided to follow Biblical principles,” Zorn said. “I think he had a dramatic change in the way he lived, and that dramatically changed the way he played.
“I really believe this about football: It’s the ultimate team sport and I really do believe a guy’s lifestyle will aid or hinder his on-the-field play. I’m not saying you have to have a religion to do it, but you have to have a consistency and a purpose and a confidence. You can’t have your identity all wrapped up in what you do on the field.”
Brown had a couple of guides along his path to a better outlook on what was a pretty good life – Sherman Smith, the Seahawks’ original running back who now coaches the position on Pete Carroll’s staff; and Ken Hutcherson, a linebacker from the Green Bay Packers who also came to the Seahawks in the allocation draft and is now pastor of Antioch Bible Church in Kirkland.
“I can’t take the credit, because Dave had an influence on me,” said Smith, who lived next door to Brown for 10 years in addition to being his teammate. “Dave was a heckuva competitor. He loved to compete, and he was a great athlete. I loved what he was all about as a man.
“Dave was a good player because he was a good person, because of what he stood for as a person. He was accountable. He was dependable. He was responsible. And he carried that onto the field.”
In addition to his club-record number of interceptions and returns for touchdowns (five), Brown was once the franchise leader in consecutive starts.
“Until I hurt him,” Beeson said. “They threw a screen pass out of the backfield. He was coming up from the corner spot and I was coming from the inside linebacker spot. I ended up colliding with him more than I did the running back. I broke his leg.”
That was during the 1981 season opener, and it snapped Brown’s consecutive-start streak at 77 games. After missing six games, Brown returned to start a new streak – which reached 82 before Brown left the team after the 1986 season. If you lost count in all that, Brown started every game he played for the Seahawks.
And that’s why Brown’s name pops up frequently in the team’s all-time lists: No. 1 in interception return yards (643), as well as interceptions and scoring returns off interceptions; tied at No. 4 in fumble recoveries (11); No. 7 in tackles (684); and No. 9 in games played and No. 6 in games started (159).
“There were better players in the league than Dave Brown, but there weren’t more consistent ones,” Beeson said. “The guy lined up every time the ball was snapped and did his job. He might not have been the fastest guy on the field. He might not have been the greatest technical guy on the field.
“But he was so consistent at doing it every down.”