Bill “Boom Boom” Brown, a standout running back for the Vikings and a member of the team’s Ring of Honor, died Sunday at age 80.
Brown made four Pro Bowls and played in three Super Bowls during his 13 seasons with the Vikings. He had been in declining health in a nursing care facility for the past few years after a diagnosis of dementia. His family said his brain would be donated to science for CTE research.
The 5-11, 230-pound fullback was a second-round (20th overall) choice of the Bears in 1961 out of the University of Illinois. He was traded to the Vikings the following season for a fourth-round choice in the 1964 draft.
Brown is fourth in team history in rushing yards (5,757) and touchdowns (76) and played 180 games at running back, a team record.
He led the team in rushing four times and in receiving once, in his first Pro Bowl season, 1964.
Brown was entering his seventh season with the Vikings when Oscar Reed came in as a rookie running back from Colorado State. Reed was a seventh-rounder, but he had been among the collegiate All-Stars who had played the champion Green Bay Packers in the College All-Star Game on Aug. 2, 1968, in Chicago.
“That made me about four days late for my first Vikings camp in Mankato,” Reed said. “I had scoped out the running back situation and knew that Bill and Dave Osborn were the main guys.
“I saw Bill when I got there, introduced myself, put my arm around his shoulder and said, ‘I’m here to take your job.’ I thought he’d fire back with something, but he looked at me said, ‘I’ll help you.’
“That was Boom Boom. He was a great friend, a great man and a great football player. It took me three or four years to touch the ball as much as he did.”
The same year Brown was traded to the Vikings — 1962 — linebacker Roy “Moonie” Winston also arrived as a fourth-round draft choice out of LSU. They had the two greatest nicknames on the team, Boom Boom and Moonie, and were a pair of noble Vikings, Brown through 1974 and Winston through 1976.
Winston, 78, has serious memory issues, but when informed in a call to his home in Louisiana that Brown had died, he said: “All I can say is he was a great guy. The Vikings fans loved Boom Boom, and he always lived up to that love as a player and a person. I’m so sad to hear this.”
Brown's first wife, Kay, died in 2004. He is survived by his second wife, Darlene; children Scott, Shelley, Kimberly and Mick; three sisters and a brother.
Shelley Brown’s husband, former Vikings and Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon (@richgannon12), tweeted Sunday: “Sure going to miss this guy! Bill “Boom Boom” Brown passed away peacefully this morning. He was an incredible man who was so good to me and everyone he ever met! I’m certain he will be welcomed in to God’s kingdom!”
Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf released a statement that read, in part: “He embodied all the characteristics the Vikings continue to instill in players today — tough, disciplined, selfless — and became an immediate fan favorite.”
A funeral Mass for Brown will be held Tuesday at 11 a.m. at St. Hubert Catholic Church in Chanhassen, with visitation starting at 9:30 a.m.