Hall of Famer Johnny Brown Left His Mark on ODU
Johnny Brown, called one of the greatest natural athletes in Hampton Roads and a 1981 inductee in the Old Dominion University Sports Hall of Fame, passed away Sunday, March 2 in Virginia Beach at the age of 94.
A three sport athlete at the Norfolk Division of the College of William and Mary from 1937-1940, Brown was often compared to Jim Thorpe because of his prowess and versatility in track, football and baseball. He excelled in all three sports for the Norfolk Division before winning acclaim on a star-studded Army team packed with All-Americans and then competing for William and Mary.
A high scoring tailback, a leading hitter in baseball, and top scorer on the track team, Brown scored six firsts in one track meet and set a state AAU long jump record of 22'11" in 1940. In 1946, after having been away from track for five years, Brown won a college pole vault event with one jump, using a borrowed pole.
During World War II, Private Brown made the Fort Riley (Kansas) football team, loaded with stars from such schools as Tennessee and Ohio State. Although he had once been called "too small" to play football at Maury High School in Norfolk, he went on to beat out All-American Benny Sheridan of Notre Dame to lead Fort Riley in scoring and to the Sunflower Bowl.
Following the war, where he served as an assault gun troop commander under General George C. Patton, Brown returned to college. He earned a starting slot in football and set records for the track team he captained, before graduating from William and Mary in 1948. He returned for a master's degree in 1953. Brown was hired by the Norfolk school system in 1948 and coached outstanding Granby High School track and football teams before becoming principal. Brown also found time to play professional football with the Norfolk Shamrocks, as well as earn all-star honors and batting titles with Norfolk City League baseball teams.
When Old Dominion reinitiated its football program in 2009, Brown and six others were honored on the field prior to kickoff of the Monarchs first game against Chowan. Brown was the last former player introduced, where at age 89 he ran from the tunnel in the endzone to accept the game ball from a parachute trooper who delived the ball at center field.
Following his retirement in 1981 from the Norfolk Public Schools, Brown penned several books, including his look back at ODU's first football teams, entitled "Before They Were Monarchs", published in 2009.
Old Dominion will honor Brown with a moment of silence prior to its final men's basketball game of the season on Thursday, March 6 vs. East Carolina at 7. A viewing will be held Thursday from 6-8 p.m. at the Holloman-Brown Funeral Home, Bayside Chapel, 1457 Independence Boulevard in Virginia Beach. The funeral is Saturday at 11 a.m. at Bayside Presbyterian Church, 1400 Ewell Road in Virginia Beach. For information on Johnny Brown's life and career, please click the link to the story in The Virginian Pilot: http://hamptonroads.com/2014/03/odu-hall-famer-brown-left-mark-local-sports