Browne Was TVL’s First Gridder To Play in the NFLOct 27, 2020 01:43PM ● By Ken HAMWEY
Millis Receiver Drafted by Jets in 2nd Round
Gordon Browne Jr. is a significant name to remember if casual conversation turns to Millis High football or Tri Valley League history. He was dominant in both venues, utilizing his size and skills to become the first football player from the TVL to be drafted and to play in the National Football League.
Browne’s journey to the NFL, and specifically to the New York Jets, is fascinating and intriguing. A tight end and defensive end at Millis, he competed at 6-5 and 225 pounds for the smallest school in the TVL. Its home games were often scheduled on Saturday mornings at Welch Field before moderate-sized crowds.
Before graduating in 1969, Browne and his parents sifted through 50 scholarship offers that included powerhouse grid colleges like Ohio State, Penn State and Notre Dame.
“For three straight days during the recruiting process, legendary coaches Woody Hayes, Ara Parseghian and Joe Paterno came to Millis and each stayed for about six hours at our house,’’ Browne said from his home in Fort Worth, Tex. “I chose to attend Boston College, because it was an up-and-coming program, and it was close, so my parents could attend all the games. When I visited there, I was impressed with the enthusiasm on campus.’’
After a solid career at BC, where he played tight end and offensive tackle, Browne was chosen to compete in three all-star games. At the prestigious Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., he was assigned to block Tennessee State’s Ed “Too Tall’’ Jones, who later would star for the Dallas Cowboys.
“I had a decent day blocking him and lots of NFL coaches got to see me play,’’ Browne said. “That game played a role in my getting drafted by the Jets on the second round (31st selection) in 1974.’’
Browne played three sports for Millis in the late 1960s (football, basketball and baseball) and his versatility led to all-star status in the TVL in all three sports. Able to catch a football in a crowd and block effectively, he excelled in a run-oriented offense. On defense, he was intimidating as an edge-rusher. Playing center in basketball, he averaged 17 points a game, and hit .320 in baseball where he pitched and handled first-base chores.
Browne’s most memorable gridiron moments came against Medway and Holliston. “I caught two TD passes against Holliston as a junior, and had two interceptions playing middle linebacker for the first time against Medway my senior year,’’ he recalled. “We beat Holliston, but lost the Thanksgiving Day game to Medway. That loss enabled Medway and Medfield to share the TVL championship with us. It was disappointing, just not our day. We were undefeated at 8-0 before that defeat.’’
Browne’s top football thrill in high school was his selection to play in the Agganis All-star Classic at Boston University. He helped the South squad defeat the North. “That was sweet to play against the best of the best,’’ he noted.
During his days at BC, Browne was 265 pounds, and he started out at tight end but was moved to offensive tackle as a junior. “Coach (Joe) Yukica needed help at tackle, so I was moved there. It was a situation where I had to learn a new set of skills. But it worked out.’’
Browne’s best collegiate game occurred just before moving to tackle. He caught two touchdown passes in a victory over Pittsburgh. His ability to play two positions helped when the NFL draft arrived. Browne was on the Jets’ radar, and they no doubt developed serious interest in him when their director of player personnel (Mike Holovak) scouted him and met him on the plane ride back to Massachusetts after the Senior Bowl.
“We talked on the plane, but never about the Jets drafting me,’’ Browne said. “He played and coached at Boston College and was the Patriots head coach in the 1960s. He lived in Dover and was on his way back home after scouting the Senior Bowl.’’
When Browne was drafted, he talked with General Manager Weeb Ewbank, who had coached the Jets to a Super Bowl triumph over the Colts in 1969 with Joe Namath at QB.
“My top thrill in the NFL was getting chosen 31st in the draft,’’ Browne said. “I played three years as a reserve tackle, and my best game came against the Patriots during my second season. I had a good day blocking Julius Adams. For a stretch, I blocked for Namath.’’
A shoulder separation suffered in 1976 against the Steelers led to Browne’s being placed on injured waivers. He eventually was released. “It was disappointing,’’ he emphasized. “I had dreams and expectations for a long career, but it didn’t happen. I got to the NFL and am proud of it. I went from Millis to Alumni Stadium at BC, then to Shea Stadium, which seats 68,000. I wish my career was longer, but it shows that a kid from a small town and a small school can get to the NFL.’’
A native of Boston, Browne is married, is the father of three and has six grandchildren. Still working at 68, he’s employed by Texas Health Resources. His degree from BC is in marketing and management, and he has a masters from Hofstra University.
Browne knew the value of hard work in high school and college, and it was that work ethic that earned him a job with the New York Jets. He is proof that coming from a small town and a small league aren’t barriers that shatter dreams and expectations.