Brown in 2005.
|Date of birth:February 22, 1971|
|Place of birth: Farmington, Michigan|
|High school: Detroit (MI) Mackenzie|
|NFL Draft: 1993 / Round: 3 / Pick: 79|
|Debuted in 1993|
|Last played in 2003|
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Gilbert Jesse Brown (born February 22, 1971) is a former American football player. A nose tackle who played for the Green Bay Packers of the National Football League (1993–99, 2001–03), Brown played 125 Packers games (103 starts) recording 292 tackles (186 solo) and seven sacks. Nicknamed "The Gravedigger," in honor of his celebratory dance following a thunderous tackle, Brown played in 15 Packers playoff games. He was a major contributor on strong defenses during the mid-1990s. His best season was 1996, when Green Bay won Super Bowl XXXI. He was also part of the Kansas team that won the 1992 Aloha Bowl, and was selected for the All-Academic Big Eight team in 1991.
Gilbert grew up in Detroit, Michigan with parents Leroy and Ann Brown, older brother Wes, and younger siblings, Sheri, Tommy and Anna (all of whom went to college and became athletes). Like Leroy, Gilbert was athletic and fast. Even his brothers could not run home before Gilbert.
During his career at Mackenzie High School, he recorded 189 tackles and 19 sacks. His senior year culminated in all-state honors. Brown also lettered in track, competing in the shot put. He graduated from high school in 1989.
Back in high school, Gilbert never looked at big-time football factories such as Michigan. He wanted to get away from what he saw in Detroit. He wanted a quiet, smaller environment in which to live after one of his classmates was gunned down. So he turned down Bo Schembechler and the University of Michigan to go to a school known for its powerful basketball program, and not for its football ability: the University of Kansas. The Kansas Jayhawks coach Glen Mason said, "The very first play of the first drill, he goes up against a lineman and he absolutely demolished him. We just looked around at each other."
With the Jayhawks, Brown helped build a winning program along with fellow defensive lineman and future NFL first round pick Dana Stubblefield (Kansas went to the Aloha Bowl in '92). But Brown went through more difficult times during his college years: a friend Brown had just met on campus died unexpectedly of spinal meningitis, and Brown's father died of congestive heart failure during Brown's senior year.
He started all but 2 games in four seasons at the University of Kansas (1989–92), and was tied for sixth in school history in tackles by a defensive lineman with 168, fifth in career tackles for loss with 30, and had 7½ career sacks. He finished second on the team in sacks, tackles for loss and fumbles recovered in 1991 while helping the Jayhawks hold opponents to an average of 150.9 yards per game on the ground, which was the best run defense at Kansas since 1968 at the time. A year earlier, as a sophomore, was named as the Jayhawks’ ‘Co-Defensive Most Valuable Player’ and earned second team All-Big Eight Conference recognition. Brown started nine games at nose guard as a freshman...An All-Academic Big Eight selection in 1991.
He came up with the "Gravedigger" move at Kansas—after a big defensive hit, he would dig an imaginary grave, which became his trademark and nickname.
He majored in human development.
Brown was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the third round of the 1993 NFL Draft (79th overall pick), but was waived during the final roster cutdowns on August 30, 1993 in his first training camp due to his weight. He was listed at 315 in college, but showed up to Vikings camp at a hefty 355. But the Packers, desperate then for defensive linemen, picked him up on August 31. Brown played in just two games that season while he worked off some of his weight in practice. In 1994, he played but his season was cut short with a torn Anterior cruciate ligament. Again in 1995, he played, but an elbow injury cut that season short. In 1996, he started all 16 games next to Santana Dotson, Sean Jones and Reggie White, a defensive unit that allowed a league record low 19 touchdowns. Brown had a career high 51 tackles, and his first complete 16 game season.
Brown became a fan favorite, partly because he was easy to spot, and partly because of his eccentric gravedigger dance. During the 1996 season, it became known that Brown would regularly order the "Gilbertburger" — a Triple Whopper with extra everything, cut in half with extra cheese, no pickles — always obtained from the Oneida Street Burger King in Green Bay. Burger King even made it available for a short time as a promotion in Wisconsin Burger King restaurants.
Brown was a highly sought after free agent after the 1996 season, but he elected to take a pay cut to stay with the Packers. On February 18, 1997, he signed a three-year, $8.25 million contract, which was 10 times his 1996 salary, but was about $1 million less than the offer he received from Jacksonville. He said that he would rather stay with the team and fans that he knew and loved.
Many people thought that he started getting bigger around that time, and thought that he was as high as 360 or 375, much higher than his listed 345. "That was outrageous, I never got that big," said Brown. "The biggest I ever got up to was maybe 350, something like that." But the Packers were fine with his size. Despite his weight, he posted three sacks during the 1997 season, which tied his career high from 1994.
After playing all 16 games during the 1998 and 1999 seasons, he spent the 2000 season out of football after his contract with the Packers was not renewed. Before the 2001 training camp, he worked out and lived for a time with Fred Roll, his former strength and conditioning coach at the University of Kansas, and subsequently returned to Green Bay for training camp in July at a perceptibly more svelte 339 pounds — and once again equipped with his former quickness. He was re-signed by the Packers on March 23, 2001, after which Brown announced, “If I didn’t think I could do this anymore, I wouldn't be here".
Brown had two good years after his return to football. However, he ruptured a biceps during the 2003 pre-season, but played on without having surgery. He recorded 14 tackles, one fumble recovery (the first of his career) and one pass defensed. In a victory over Chicago (Dec. 7), Brown posted a season-high four stops, along with a pass breakup.
On March 2, 2004, the Packers released Brown. He had played 125 Packers games (103 starts) with 292 tackles (186 solo) and seven sacks. He also played in 15 Packers playoff games. In franchise history, only Brett Favre (22) has more.
Life After Football
Gilbert was featured in the Sports Illustrated special, "Where Are They Now?", featuring former professional athletes and what they are up to. Brown is currently a co-owner of the Milwaukee Mile, a racetrack that is often used for NASCAR races and at one time was the Packers' part-time home field. Gilbert even claims that he will occasionally fit his massive frame inside a race car and take a few laps.
Gilbert, with the strong influence of his mother and family, felt that he wanted to give something back to the community, so he started his foundation which helps inner-city kids, and many other causes such as Breast Cancer and Make A Wish. In 2002, he combined his love for cars with his desire to give back when he organized a car show, Gilbert Brown and Friends, in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, which benefited the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
Green Bay establishment Champions Sports Bar and Grill has a burger named in Brown's honor: the Gravedigger burger, which weighs in at 93 ounces (just over 5 3/4 lbs). The weight of the burger is a callback to Brown's jersey number, which was 93.
On October 23, 2007, the Milwaukee Bonecrushers of the Continental Indoor Football League announced that Brown had signed a three-year contract to be the team's new head coach. The Bonecrushers began their season in March. However On Tuesday, April 8, 2008, Gilbert Brown resigned as head coach of the Milwaukee Bonecrushers citing irreconcilable differences with ownership.
On December 11, 2007, the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame, Inc., Tuesday announced Brown would be inducted into the Hall at the 38th Hall of Fame Induction Banquet, to be held the evening of July 19, 2008, in the Lambeau Field Atrium.
On April 1, 2011, Brown announced he was taking a leave of absence from the La Crosse Spartans.
On March 12, 2014 Gilbert Brown and his project partner, the Vistelar Group, launched an IndieGoGo project to raise money for the production/development/distribution of curriculum to counteract bullying, called the Bully-Proofing Playbook for Parents, Teachers & Kids.
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- "As Heroes Pass...". Archived from the original on 2007-07-26. Retrieved 2007-12-17.
- "What's Eating Gilbert Brown?". sportsillustrated.com. Retrieved 2007-12-17.
- "Packers Release DT Gilbert Brown". packers.com. Archived from the original on 2007-12-20. Retrieved 2007-12-17.
- "About Gilbert Brown". gilbertbrownfoundation.org. Retrieved 2007-12-17.
- "Gilbert Brown Named Head Coach of Bonecrushers, Player Signings". continentalindoorfootball.com. Retrieved 2007-12-17.
- "Packers Hall Of Fame To Induct Gilbert Brown, Frank Winters And Al Treml,". packers.com. Archived from the original on 2007-12-15. Retrieved 2007-12-17.
- "Indoor football back in La Crosse". wxow.com. Retrieved 2009-08-06.