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Ray Brown to be inducted into the Arkansas Hall of Fame


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Good to see him recognized. A good Redskin and a Great guy.

This is the 10 th in a series of articles previewing the 2006 inductees into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame. The induction banquet will be held tonight at the Statehouse Convention Center.

By his own admission, Ray Brown just barely figured it out in time.

It was his third year in the NFL, and Brown, a reserve offensive lineman, had noticed something. As usual, the veterans who had come into the league before him were getting playing time. But now, so were the players who had come into the pros after him.

“Usually, in your third year, you’d better be pressing somebody for a job,” Brown said. “It took me time to understand the business, to wise up.”

Maybe it’s that sense of time almost lost that led Brown to hold on as long as he did.

Brown will enter the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame tonight, just a few months after his final game in the NFL. Looking back on a career that went from 1986 — when he was an eighth-round draft selection of the St. Louis Cardinals — to 2006, there’s a lot Brown can say about the value of perseverance.

But he can’t say a 20-year career would have been expected.

A highly recruited athlete out of Marion High School, Brown signed with Memphis State in 1981 to stay close to his father, who was ill at the time. The move kept him close to home, but it also gave him a taste of a level of college football for which Brown admits now he wasn’t ready.

So in 1982, Brown moved again, this time to Arkansas State, which had just moved down to NCAA Division I-AA. He played tight end in Coach Larry Lacewell’s Wishbone offense because a background in track and basketball had given Brown athleticism that belied his 6-5, 230-pound frame. That athleticism is what led the Cardinals to take a late-round gamble.

“It was a case of, OK, he can run,” Brown said. “But there’s no position for him because he was a Wishbone tight end.”

Brown hung on with the Cardinals in a backup role, but it wasn’t until his third season that the urgency kicked in. He took that urgency in 1989 to the Washington Redskins, where he “blossomed” and stayed until 1995.

Brown’s run in the NFL included two more stops before he returned to Washington in 2004. By that time, he had become a full-fledged oddity, a dinosaur playing a physically demanding position in a league dominated by ever-faster, everyounger talent.

He wasn’t done.

Expecting to play out his final season as a backup, Brown showed he had some fuel left to burn when injuries vaulted him into the starting lineup for Washington’s final four regularseason games. Brown then stayed on as a starter for the Redskins ’ two playoff games.

It was during Washington’s brief playoff run that Brown’s longevity f inally received national attention, with color commentators marveling at how a 40-plus-year-old player could possibly continue to contribute.

The only one not surprised by Brown’s late-career effectiveness seemed to be Brown.

“I can go in the weight room and have good practice,” Brown said. “You guys can be mesmerized because I’m 43.”

Now two months into retirement, Brown said that finding the motivation to keep playing was never an issue.

“I’ve been able to put so much in the tank,” Brown said. “[There’s ] been something I could play for every year. I could play for my dad, who passed in 2001. I could play for my buddies at ASU, who I knew for 20 years.”

As expected of someone who spent two decades getting up for games, Brown plans to stay busy throughout his retirement. He’s already working to open a community center outside Marion to honor his parents, and he hopes to involve himself in Arkansas State athletics as a booster and fund raiser.

Not bad for someone who almost didn’t get the message in time.

“First and foremost, I’ve been blessed,” Brown said. “And I really mean that. I don’t say that in a canned way. I try to adhere to the basic tenets that I got from my mom and dad, working hard and being accountable.” RAY BROWN AT A GLANCE BORN Dec. 12, 1962, in West Memphis AGE 43 RESIDES Ashburn, Va. COLLEGE Memphis State (1981-1982 ), Arkansas State (1982-1986 ) PERSONAL Wife, Ashley; five children: daughters Lentisha (25 ), Andrea (19 ) and Miriam (10 ); sons Tyler (22 ) and Trey (3 ) NFL PLAYING EXPERIENCE St. Louis / Phoenix Cardinals, 1986-1989; Washington Redskins, 1989-1995; San Francisco 49 ers, 1996-2001; Detroit Lions, 2003; Washington Redskins, 2004-2006 CAREER HIGHLIGHTS Played in NFC Championship Game with San Francisco in 1997.... Received Super Bowl ring with the Redskins in 1991 despite being on injured reserve.... Pro Bowl selection in 1994 and 2001.... Second-team All-Pro in 2001.

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Ray Brown needs to be signed to be our assistant OF line coach! When you can still play the game at 43 yrs old, you gotta be doing something right. Can I hear some Amen brother?
I think Joe Gibbs was saying that he wanted to "bring him back in some capacity" at the end of the season. I would love to see him here helping out somehow. What an incredible athlete one must be to play offensive line in the NFL for 20 years.
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