Very sad to hear about the death of Darrell Brown, the South's first black college football player. Incredible life. https://t.co/2miv27wABD— Dan Wetzel (@DanWetzel) October 31, 2015
It's being widely reported that former Razorback Darrell Brown, the first African-American player in program history, and likely in all the South among majority-white schools, passed away Saturday morning.
Brown's time as a Razorback is not remembered for on the field heroics. It was no Disney movie. He endured an extremely tough experience as he tried to integrate Southern football during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. He went on to become a prominent attorney in Little Rock and was finally honored by Arkansas during the Auburn game in 2011.
Evin Demirel, a frequent contributor to Arkansas Fight, wrote a great profile of Brown in 2011 shortly after he was honored, which you can read here. Here's an excerpt:
The pains Brown had endured as the first black football to play for the University of Arkansas had been broadcast to the world in the days before their culmination at halftime of the Arkansas-Auburn game. A flurry of press releases and articles heralded a ceremony in which Brown received an honorary plaque and an official Razorbacks football jersey with his name stitched on the back.
Brown’s eyes welled up as he stepped onto the field to thunderous applause and started walking toward athletic director Jeff Long and his assistant Eric Wood. "I looked around and saw this crowd," Brown says. "A part of my dream was being realized, that I was on the field, I was in a full stadium. Maybe 40 years later, but I was there."
No one was cheering for Brown in 1965 when the Horatio native walked on to the freshmen squad of the defending national champion Razorbacks. No one much talked to him in the locker room for the first few weeks. Coaches didn’t bother to explain plays to him. For the most part, Brown’s served as a tackling dummy for teammates who repeatedly unleashed 11-on-1 kill-the-man kickoff return drills on him that left all 190 pounds of his 5-11 frame aching.
Yahoo! Sports' Dan Wetzel also wrote a great feature of Brown at around the same time, which is here. It's long, and any of it is worth an excerpt. I highly recommend reading it. It details what Brown went through entering the football program and what he dealt with when he was on the team, his experiences at Arkansas' law school, and his life afterward.
Here's part of it:
The truth was, Darrell Brown couldn’t tell much of the story without breaking down in tears, something he didn’t want his teenage daughter to see. He still can’t do it.
After Deedee’s freshman year, Darrell Jr. followed his father’s trail to the UA law school. The thaw continued. Brown even began supporting the Razorbacks football team. Deedee, who became a two-time All-American, eventually married a football player, Marcus Campbell.
The circle of life seemed to culminate on a fine spring day in 2002, when within a couple hours two of Brown’s children graduated. "My chest was out to here with pride," he said Derick is now pursuing a doctorate at the school.
That evening, Brown reserved the Razorback Room at the Catfish Hole, a local institution. Forty or so people filled it up, and Brown stood and tried to express what it all meant.
There was the family legacy of never quitting. The irony of a school that did everything it could to keep him from playing paying for the education of his daughter. And there was his own son graduating from the same law school that that he was shot while attending.
It was everything, all at once, delivered with the precision and power of a trial attorney.
"Everybody in the place was bawling," Deedee said. "No one made it through that."
Especially not Darrell Brown, who choked up repeatedly.
"Now that I’m older," Deedee said, "it means even more. Hearing the stories of what he endured. He created a great life for us.
"That man … I’m telling you, I’m proud of that man."
I continue to hope someone in Hollywood will make the Darrell Brown movie. https://t.co/2miv27Obtb— Dan Wetzel (@DanWetzel) October 31, 2015