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In memoriam: Willie Brown, football star and assistant football, baseball coach

A top player who went to the NFL, he returned to USC as an assistant coach of national champion football and baseball squads

Willie Brown, a player and assistant coach on Trojan national championship football and baseball teams, died Thursday in Carson of cancer. He was 76.

A three-year letterman (1961-63) and two-time All-Conference first teamer (1962-63) in football at USC, he was a member of USC’s 1962 national championship team and captained the 1963 squad. USC’s original I-formation tailback, Brown played the position during his first two seasons, including when head coach John McKay introduced the I-formation to the Trojan offense in 1961.

Willie Brown

Willie Brown was a three-year letterman and two-time All-Conference first teamer. (Photos/Courtesy of USC Athletics)

Brown led USC in rushing (574 yards) and kickoff returns in 1962, when he was chosen the team’s Back of the Year, and in both receiving (34 catches) and scoring (44 points) in 1963, when he was its Most Inspirational Player. He also led USC in punt returns and interceptions in 1962 and 1963. He rushed for 1,294 yards in his career. He played in the Hula Bowl, East-West Shrine Game, College All-Star Game and Coaches All-America Game.

He also lettered three years (1962-64) as a centerfielder and shortstop on the Trojan baseball team, including the 1963 squad that won the College World Series. He won 1963 All-Conference honors when he led Troy in batting average (.352) and runs (39).

To the NFL and back to USC

Brown spent three years in the NFL with the Los Angeles Rams (1964-65) and Philadelphia Eagles (1966) before returning to USC as an assistant football coach for eight years (1968-75), including with the 1972 and 1974 national champion teams. He also served as a Trojan baseball assistant in 1969 and in 1970, when USC won the 1970 College World Series.

He then was an assistant coach in the NFL before becoming a restaurant franchisee. From 1996 to 2016, he was an academic monitor in USC’s Student-Athlete Academic Services.

Before enrolling at USC, he was the CIF Player of the Year in football in 1959 at Long Beach Poly High. He was inducted into the USC Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005.

He is survived by his wife, Carole; son, Brian; daughter, Kimberly; grandchildren Nathan and Alana; and brother Oscar, who played baseball at USC and with the Atlanta Braves. His other brother, Ollie, who played in the majors with the San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres, Oakland Athletics, Milwaukee Brewers, Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies, died in 2015.

Services are pending.

In memoriam: Willie Brown, football star and assistant football, baseball coach

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