Charlie Brown's career in Flagstaff was short, but impactful eventually landing in the NFL with the Detroit Lions. After starting his college career at Merritt Junior College, Brown arrived at NAU in 1968. His final season was the best by a Lumberjack receiver without a doubt at the time, as Brown set new single-season school records for receptions (63), receiving yards (1,134) and receiving touchdowns (11). His records would hold for decades, as his touchdowns record stood until 1990 and his yards record – which was nearly doubled the previous mark – was broken in 2003. Brown still ranks fifth receiving yards and is tied for fourth in receiving touchdowns in NAU's single-season ledger. In terms of single-game records, Brown also broke a number of those as well including receptions (12), receiving yards (245) and touchdowns (3). His 245 yards against Whitworth remains a school record, and in fact when his career was over, Brown held the top three single-game receiving yard totals including 192 against Weber State and 189 versus Montana State. His historic season earned him a spot on the NAIA All-America Team by the Associated Press and launched him into the NFL after being selected by the Detroit Lions in the 14th round of the 1970 Draft. As a rookie, Brown played in 14 games for the Lions.
Recently Northern Arizona University inducted our dad into its athletic Hall of Fame as a wide receiver. My only question is what took so long?
A native of Oakland California, Brown attended Castlemont High School. He began playing college football at Merritt Junior College in Oakland at the same time Huey Newton and Bobby Seale began organizing the Black Panther Party. In 1968, he transferred to Northern Arizona University as a sociology student and a split end for the 1968 and 1969 football teams.
Our father is now battling Parkinson's, a disorder of the central nervous system that affects movement. He has struggled with health since his diagnosis in 2009, a steady decline is how I would describe our fathers ability to care of himself. In recent years the NFL has paid close to one billion dollars in legal fees and money to former players who incurred concussions as by product of professional football's contact culture. The brain is simply not made to be put in such a consistent banging contest and the consequences of this culture, is neurological chaos. In 2009 if our father was inducted into the NAU hall of fame, he would have been able to walk on campus, say a few words and then except his awards. This is no longer the case. The pendulum has swung so far from his last season at NAU that his body has become polarized with the punishment it takes to be an All American receiver and a NFL draft pick. Coming across the middle of the field, moving with reckless abandonment, with little concern for his own body, while moving the ball through the opposing teams territory, is seen as pure entertainment to onlookers but, for the gladiators who endure the pain, glory under the lights is all they gain.
After a national pandemic, global lockdowns and booster shots, NAU was prepared to acknowledge the legacy of our fathers participation in their athletic program. In the hall of fame, at his alma mater, is where Charles Brown's name belongs, anything less would be uncivilized.
After spending time in the NFL our father went on to tryout acting and modeling for a few years, still embodying a physical physique unmatched by many. He was on set for movies like Escape from Alcatraz as well as, Invasion of the Body Snatchers. From here he would try out life in real estate as a broker as well as, a youth educator, the latter in which he would do for the next thirty three years in his hometown of Oakland, ca. Our father is someone who has been a Hall of fame person all of our lives and everywhere we would go around The Bay Area people who had known him for years, would constantly remind us this.
Our father did a lot, he did more in a short period of time than many have a opportunity to do in their entire lives. His participation in the NFL was the only thing that kept him out of the Vietnam war, he was drafted into the service and was enlisted in the reserves while in Detroit. From a spiritual perspective this act of self preservation, was all that our family needed from the NFL to propel our family's institution into knowledge of self.
One story I will never forget, told to me by my father was about his senior season at NAU. When I was nine years old, I remember my father picking me up from school and he asked me about my day and how things went, at this time I was playing flag football for my elementary school. I was fascinated with the history of my fathers football career and he would often recite memories that shaped his faith and belief in hisself, while being confronted with adversity. Coming from Oakland , California to Northern Arizona the shift in weather was one of the challenges our father was confronted with. During his junior year, extreme cold weather and snowfall would often make it hard to catch passes because of the numbness that would develop in his hands, while waiting on his defense to come off the field. This would influence his abilities on the field but never deterred his confidence in self. He told me he prayed for good weather and no snowfall before the first game of his senior season. What happened that season would not only strengthen his faith but also his children's point of view. In 1969 there was a snow storm in the form of a blizzard in Northern Arizona but, it would not come until a day after my father's final game as a college senior. My father has lived his entire life with Sickle Cell, this is one thing I got from my father that I also have given to my son. It is our ability to control the narrative that is important.
Time is not a linear function, past, present and future moments are all happening now. The marvel of our father's story can be corresponded to the temple writings in KMT which, can also be imagined in the descendants that are yet to come. To greatness we return, because it is from greatness that we have ALL descended.
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