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Former NFL player and Natchez resident Allen Brown dies at 76

NATCHEZ — Former NFL player Allen Brown of Natchez died Monday at the age of 76.

Brown was a standout Natchez High football player and went on to play for the Ole Miss Rebels under Johnny Vaught before being drafted into the NFL by the Green Bay Packers and the San Diego Chargers in 1965.

Brown, who played tight-end, eventually signed and went on to play for the Green Bay Packers on the team that won Super Bowl I in 1967 against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Allen suffered a career-ending injury in 1967 and moved back to Natchez.

“Allen was a tremendous football player, but he was also a great person,” said Tony Byrne, former Natchez Mayor and fellow member of the Miss-Lou Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame. “He would like people to remember what a great person he was and how much good he has done for Natchez.”

In Natchez, Brown was active in the community.

“Allen was always involved in everything,” Byrne said. “He was a tremendous griller, and he liked to grill outside and was very much part of the Miss-Lou Chapter of the Hall of Fame.”

Freddie Sandel, president of The Miss-Lou Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame, agreed that Brown was a great community member.

“Allen was one of the cornerstone members of our Miss-Lou Chapter,” Sandel said. “He was an outstanding athlete, an excellent cook, a great friend and was loved by all. He will be greatly missed.”

Don Estes, who lived two doors down from Brown, also was the equipment manager for Ole Miss when Brown played for the Ole Miss Rebels.

“He meant everything to my life,” Estes said. “He and I were friends from the time we were 3 to 4 years old. We used to walk to school together and we played football at the Natchez schools. He went to Ole Miss but he told them: ‘My friend Don Estes has to come here with me.’”

Brown was born in the Homochitto community but moved to Natchez with his family at the age of 5.

“Playing football was my life,” Brown said in a 2016 interview with The Natchez Democrat. “I really enjoyed it.”

Cappy Stahlman, local businessman, grew up with Brown and shared the following anecdote.

“Back in the 1950s there was a place known as the Monmouth Drive In,” Stahlman said. “Everybody would hang out there and parked all around it. This car pulled up next to me and the driver of the other car was singing loudly and making lots of noise. There were two guys who played football for Natchez High School — namely, Allen and Jerry Brown. They walked to the noisy car and each stood on either side and told them to ‘Shut up!’ and shook the convertible car. The occupant of the car said that he was a new singer from Ferriday. The guys said, ‘We know who you are going to be in a few minutes if you don’t calm down.’ Things got very quiet. No harm was done. As it turned out the singer was Jerry Lee Lewis who became very famous. As the years went by several of us attended Ole Miss with the Brown brothers and saw what gentle giants they were — fine and upstanding to the end.”

In 1961, Brown went to play football at Ole Miss.

“One of 11 children, Brown wanted to sign with nearby LSU but his brothers and Ole Miss assistant coach Ray Poole, also from the Homochitto community, convinced him to become a Rebel,” states Brown’s biography on the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame website.

At Ole Miss Brown played on both sides of the ball — tight end and linebacker. Ole Miss went 9-2 that season, winning its first six games of the season.

In 1962, set against the backdrop of the civil rights movement, Brown and the Rebels went 10-0, won the Sugar Bowl and were recognized as national champions. That same year, James Meredith became the first black student to enroll at the University of Mississippi.

“We couldn’t play all of our home games because of the riots on the campus,” Brown said.

Brown was Ole Miss’ third-leading receiver in the 1962 season, with 134 yards on 11 receptions and one touchdown.

Brown and the Rebels returned to the Sugar Bowl the next two years, beating Arkansas 17-13, then losing to Alabama 12-7.

Brown’s two sons, Tim and Burkes Brown, and his grandson, Ben Brown all played football at Ole Miss.

“I always had a desire to follow in his footsteps,” Tim Brown said, “but my dad left a big print. I was never nearly as good as he was. I’m thankful I had an opportunity to play. He never demanded that we play football. He was such a great encourager.”

In 1965 Allen Brown was drafted by the San Diego Chargers, an AFL team, and the Green Bay Packers, an NFL team. Brown said the Chargers offered him a salary of $20,000 per year. Green Bay, meanwhile, offered a salary of $15,000 per year. Brown said he relayed San Diego’s offer to Green Bay coach Vince Lombardi, and Lombardi’s answer was, “See if they ever give it to you.”

Brown’s career with the Green Bay Packers lasted from 1965-1967 and he played 19 games, with three receptions for 43 yards, one kickoff return for 13 yards. As a Packer, he was a member the first two Super Bowl Championship Teams in 1966 and 1967.

Brown’s career ended in 1967 when he was severely injured near the end of season and subsequently retired.

Brown said he saved up enough money to move back to Natchez.

Brown said he enjoyed playing under legendary Green Bay Packers Coach Vince Lombardi.

“Lombardi would cuss us out during the day, and then he would pat you on the back at night and tell you what a great job you did,” Brown said.

Allen Brown attended Jefferson Street United Methodist Church in Natchez.

“Allen was a beloved member at Jefferson Street, a gentle man with only kindness to share,” said the Rev. Bill Barksdale, pastor of Jefferson Street United Methodist Church. “He leaves a legacy of grace and faithfulness to all of us who were blessed to know him.”

Allen Brown’s son-in-law Chris Kelley said Allen Brown was a great man who will be missed.

“He was the most generous man I have ever known,” Kelley said. “He was just a great example of the love that Christ wanted us to share with other people.”

Tim Brown said he would miss his father.

“I was unconditionally loved by a great man,” Tim Brown said. “The strongest man I have ever known.”