As we continue to look back at some Trojans who passed away in 2022, here’s an appreciation for a great Trojan who played during perhaps its greatest era.
All-American offensive lineman Booker Brown died July 18. He was 69.
Brown was born in Mississippi before his family moved west when he was 10.
“Hey, I grew up in Mississippi,” he said when he was inducted into the Santa Barbara City College Hall of Fame in 2019. “My family were sharecroppers, and we didn’t have running water in the house. But we had food on the table . . . And we had love.”
Brown’s first memory of USC was the 42-37 victory over Wisconsin in the 1963 Rose Bowl.
Brown and Sam Cunningham were teammates at Santa Barbara High School. After Booker went to Santa Barbara City College for two years, he rejoined Cunningham at USC.
USC went 20-1-1 during his two seasons and won the national title in 1972. He was a consensus All-American and the Trojans’ lineman of the year in 1973. He was blocking for Cunningham when the fullback scored four TD’s and was MVP of the 1973 Rose Bowl.
Brown would be an anomaly today: At Santa Barbara High School, he was a big, strong lineman, a basketball player with a soft-touch on his jumper and a powerful first baseman.
Brown was a JC All-American and then recruited to USC as an offensive guard. But his first start came at offensive tackle in the fifth game of the season vs. Stanford because the Trojans were hit by injuries.
“Well, we’ve got this guard named Booker Brown,” John McKay said. “He’s the widest athlete I’ve ever seen. We’ll put a helmet on each of his shoulders and have him play both tackle and guard.”
His best game turned out to be a loss to Ohio State in the 1974 Rose Bowl. Brown said he graded out 100 percent on the game film.
“Arnie Jones was the first defensive tackle that went against me,” he told journalist Mark Patton. “I beat him into a bloody pulp. He came to the sideline, and Woody Hayes broke a clipboard over his helmet.
“Pete Cusick came into the game. He was scared to death. ‘What’s this guy have, a razor blade out here?’ His arms were shaking. I was a violent, vicious guy. I liked to talk on the field. I told him, ‘This is gonna hurt, but it’ll be quick.’ ”
Off the field, Brown was known for his smile, his ability to make people laugh and his gentle demeanor.
Brown was the highest-paid offensive lineman in pro football when he signed a contract with the Southern California Sun in 1974. The league folded in 1975 and Brown played three seasons with the San Diego Chargers.
He later coached football at Mojave High School in Hesperia and served as an ordained minister for the last 23 years of his life.
Brown had seven sons. He is also survived by his wife Jacqueline, two brothers and a sister.