Willie Brown, a legendary defensive back for the Oakland Raiders who maintained a decades-long relationship with the franchise, has passed away. He was 78 years old.
The team has not yet publicly confirmed Brown's death. According to The Mercury News, the unfortunate news has been confirmed by a team source.
Prominent members of the franchise have already responded to the news as well. Jon Gruden reportedly responded to Mercy News reporter Jerry McDonald's text about Brown's death, calling it a "crushing loss." Quarterback Derek Carr has also responded on Twitter.
No cause of death has been revealed.
Willie Brown served as the team's director of staff development from 1995-2019, his longevity serving as an example of the family atmosphere promoted by late team owner Al Davis.
Davis is, of course, the man who acquired Brown decades ago. He began his pro career with the AFL's Denver Broncos in 1963, where he spent three years after playing his college career at Grambling State. In Denver, he developed into an all-star player, and was acquired by the Raiders in a trade ahead of the 1967 season.
In Oakland, he was a member of three Super Bowl championship teams, and made four Pro Bowl and two All-NFL first teams. He is a member of the NFL's All-Decade team for the 1970s. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1984, his first year of eligibility for the honor.
After his 1978 retirement, he immediately transitioned into coaching, joining the Raiders staff as defensive backs coach. In 1991, he served as head coach of the Long Beach State 49ers, and coached Jordan High School in Los Angeles in 1994.
Our thoughts go out to the Brown family and the Raiders' community for the loss.