Growing up in Warren, Ohio, Browner was primarily interested in swimming and diving before concentrating on football. He attended Warren Western Reserve High School and during his senior year he was named first-team AAA (big school) all-state defensive end.
Ross Browner was one of the most decorated defensive players in the history of college football. At the University of Notre Dame he was a four-year starter at defensive end in 1973 and 1975-77. He was a unanimous All-America his junior and senior seasons of 1976 and 1977. In 1976 he won the Outland trophy as the nation's best interior or defensive lineman also in 1976 United Press International named him Lineman of the Year. He won the Lombardi Trophy as the nation's best lineman and the Maxwell Award as the nation's best player and again won the UPI Lineman of the Year Award, the only player ever to win it twice. In the decade of the 1970s, Browner was the only lineman who won the Maxwell. In 1977 he also placed fifth in voting for the Heisman Trophy. During his senior year in college, he was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated with the subheading of "Notre Dame's Peerless Ross Browner."
Notre Dame had a 39-7 record in his time that covered 11-0 in 1973, 8-3 in 1975, 9-3 in 1976, and 11-1 in 1977. Notre Dame won National Championships in 1973 and 1977. His career statistics record 340 tackles, a school record; ten deflected passes, two blocked kicks. He also scored a touchdown and two safeties. Browner was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999.
He was the first-round draft pick in the 1978 NFL Draft for the Cincinnati Bengals. Voted the team's Most Valuable Player in 1978, he played nine seasons for the Bengals. He set the Super Bowl record for tackles by a defensive lineman in Super Bowl XVI. In 1985 he jumped to the Houston Gamblers of the USFL, but returned the same season to the Bengals. Browner played one season (1987) with the Green Bay Packers before retiring.
After retiring, Browner lived for several years in Mason, Ohio and has worked in real estate, sports entertainment, the cleaning industry, insurance, mortgages and business development. He currently is working in real estate and lives in Nashville, Tennessee.