Sunday, September 25, 2011

Gentle Giant


To say that Orlando "Zeus" Brown was a giant is an understatement. The man stood tall at 6 foot and 8 inches. He weighed about 325 pounds when I met him in the fall of 1991. We were on the campus of South Carolina State University. He was my teammate. He was the biggest human being that I had ever seen. My first thoughts when I saw him..."Damn, I hope this guy plays offense like me." Fortunately, he did.

His mother nicknamed him Zeus because of her love for Greek Mythology.

On September 23, 2011...Zeus left this earth. He was only 40 years young. The news of his death shocked me. I'm still in shock. And while the cause of his death has not been determined, we mourn. Many of you reading this know what the media has reported about him...he played 11 seasons in the NFL for the Cleveland Browns & the Baltimore Ravens...he was once hit in the eye by an errant flag thrown by a referee that left his eye swollen, bloody and it caused him to push the referee and be suspended by the NFL...he sued the NFL for 200 million dollars (settled for 25 million)...he was one of the best to play his position when he played in the NFL...

I won't bore you with stuff that the media will tell you about the man. I'll tell you what I KNOW about the man.

Zeus was a GREAT player...but an even greater teammate. Zeus was one of the guys. He was a star but he always wanted to be one of the guys and not be treated like a star. One of my first memories of Zeus was during my freshman year. I had only been at school for a few weeks. I was getting homesick and I was down about not playing. Zeus stopped me in the dorm. He said "Aye young'n...where are you from? I saw you at practice today. Keep workin hard man. You're gonna play here." Those words stuck with me. I was surprised that an upperclassman would take the time to even speak to a lonely freshman! Two days later, he stopped by my room and said..."I'm going to get something to eat. Roll with me." I did. During that ride, I learned alot about my mammoth teammate. He was from DC (HD Woodson High School)...loved go-go music (which he blasted all the way to Burger King but I wasn't gonna tell him to turn it down) he earned his nickname, etc. I remember when we walked in...his 6 foot 8 inch frame dwarfed me at 5 foot 7 (150 pounds with rocks in pocket). I remember the looks and stares that we got when we walked in. Even though he weighed more than 300 pounds, Zeus wasn't fat. He was mostly muscle. Unlike most big people, he seemed very comfortable in his skin. He stood tall. Zeus was always smiling, laughing, and joking.

One of the other things that I remember about Zeus is that he was extremely competitive! He hated to lose! I remember being in the dorm one night and beating Zeus 3 consecutive times in Madden on Sega Genesis. I was talking trash. He said "Let's play again." I said "Man, I'm not playing you any more tonight, Zeus. It's almost 2am and I have a class at 8am." But he insisted...and I wasn't gonna tell the Big Fella 'no'. So we played and I won. The next day after we had both finished our classes...can you guess who was waiting for me in my dorm room to play again??? Big Zeus! He was determined to beat me! The ultimate competitor.

It came as no surprise to me that Zeus would be a success in the NFL. When you have the talent and the competitive nature that he had, he was destined for it. It wasn't a surprise that Zeus would go on to open a successful Fatburger restaurant in the DC area. I wasn't surprised to hear about his charitable donations to HD Woodson, SC State, and to the DC community. Zeus had it in him.

The last time that I spoke with him was a few years ago. Same ole Zeus. Crackin jokes and being who he was. You could hear the excitement in his voice when he spoke of his 3 sons. He was a proud father. I could only laugh because I remember him from school and I could see the growth in him. He was the SAME dude that he was the day that he stopped me in the dorm. No matter how much money he had. He was still one of the guys. He never changed. I never got a chance to hear him tell this STORY ABOUT HIS SCARY 9/11 EXPERIENCE in NYC (please click link and read). But I can only imagine hearing him tell it.

Zeus was a giant. A gentle giant off the field. He was almost like a big bear but you always wanted to be around a dude like that. I remember when he was in the NFL and he'd be on tv, I'd tell people..."That's my dude right there!" Since his death, I've gotten a few phone calls from former teammates who I hadn't heard from in years. I've been able to re-connect with some people on Facebook as well. Everybody had a story or a great memory of Zeus.

Guess you could say that this is mine.

Father, Brother, Son, Friend, Businessman, Teammate

Big Zeus...we're gonna miss you man! Rest in peace


Beautifully Complex said...

What a touching tribute to your friend 12Kyle. I read the 9/11 story it was surreal. I am so sorry for your loss. He was so young ! Praying for his children.

12kyle said...

@ Beautifully Complex
Thanks for your kind words. Please continue to pray for his family and friends

Mizrepresent said...

Ditto what Beautifully Complex said, a great tribute! Praying for all!

MiSScNeLLY said...

Wow.... Thank you for sharing this heartfelt tribute. Praying for his family and friends....

OJ Philly said...

Great article, Kyle. Sounds like a guy everyone should have met. I'm glad you also shared your thoughts about "Zeus" on In The Clutch Radio.

Don said...

Good read, fam.

I remembered the name beforehand but could never put a face to it, until I read your post. And now I remember him clearly, the incident you described.

Life doesn't last as long as we prefer, and that's the thing, we have to live it to the fullest.

It definitely seems as though your teammate and friend Orlando Brown did just that.

Rest in peace, Zeus.

Tyrone said...

This is the side of Orlando Brown that everyone should know. Great read man.