In this edition of 100 Days, 100 Detroit Lions, we honor the defensive tackle, who with Alex Karras, formed one of the greatest defensive tackle duos in NFL history.
18. Roger Brown
Defensive Tackle. 1960-66 Detroit; 1967-69 Los Angeles Rams
In the days of Jim Crow and segregation in the southern United States, smart NFL teams would send their scouts to the many all-black colleges scattered throughout the region to uncover their schools’ NFL caliber talent. The Lions during the 1960’s were among the best at doing just that. In 1960, Lion assistant coach and scout Bob Nussbaumer found a massive defensive tackle from Maryland Eastern Shore who awed the coach with his size, and raw ability. That player’s name was Roger Brown.
Roger was a 6-foot-5, 298 pound cat-quick, bull-strong defensive tackle would become their fourth-round pick in 1960. He quickly moved into the Lions’ starting lineup, teaming with Alex Karras to form what would become the most feared tackle duo in the entire NFL. The Lions’ defensive line of that era would become so dominant, that they would soon be known as “The Fearsome Foursome,” years before the great Los Angeles Rams’ defensive line, led by Deacon Jones and Merlin Olsen would claim the name as their own.
It was during the 1962 season when the original Fearsome Foursome would stake their claim for NFL immortality. On Thanksgiving Day that season, a national television audience witnessed Roger Brown’s coming out party. The Leos would devastate the defending NFL champion Green Bay Packers by jumping out to a 26-0 lead, before the Pack would score twice late to end the destruction at 26-14. In the game, the Lions would sack Packer quarterback Bart Starr 11 times, for 110 yards in losses. In addition, the defense would hold the NFL’s leading rusher Jim Taylor, who entered the game with 1,121 yards, to 47 for the entire day.
The game would become known to Lion fans as the “Thanksgiving Day Massacre,” and would prompt Packer coach Vince Lombardi to lobby the NFL to end Green Bay’s traditional Turkey Day date in the Motor City. The league agreed to do so after 1963. The Packers wouldn’t play the Lions on Thanksgiving again until 1984.
The Pro Bowl at the end of the 1962 season would be the first of Roger’s six-straight appearances in the all-star game. Throughout Brown’s career, his size, quickness, closing speed, and brute power made him truly a player that was ahead of his time. Roger’s last Pro Bowl appearance came in 1967, as a member of the Los Angeles Rams’ Fearsome Foursome. He was traded in the 1967 preseason to the Rams for a first, second, and third-round draft choice. He would finally become part of a playoff team with the Rams in 1969; however they lost to the eventual NFL champion Minnesota Vikings in the first-round 23-20.