Gilbert Brown: The Gravedigger
"Why is he wearing that black thing?" I remember asking my dad one Sunday, after seeing the dark-tinted visor Gilbert Brown had attached to his helmet. "Does he need sunglasses?" "Well, supposedly it's to stop people from poking him in the eye, but I think he just likes to look tough," came the response.
Though I've watched literally hundreds of players in my time as a Packer fan, I can't think of many more intimidating, at least in looks, than Gilbert Brown. Between the mammoth side, the dark visor, and the alarming quickness he displayed on the field, you never wanted to be the one trying to sneak past Gilbert "The Gravedigger" Brown to the end zone...or to a Gilbert Burger.
Ah yes, the Gilbert Burger. According to the ever-reliable Wikipedia, it was a "Triple Whopper with extra everything, cut in half with extra cheese and no pickles." If you're going to be a folk hero, you might has well have your own signature food.
And a folk hero is exactly what Gilbert Brown was. Never a statistically dominant player, he nonetheless remained incredibly popular throughout his career, and maintains a presence in Green Bay today.
To me, though, the word that comes to mind when I think about Gilbert Brown is sacrifice. After a big season in 1996, he took less money to stay in Green Bay than he could have earned somewhere else. Then, when his weight became a problem late in his career, he took a year away from the game and came back thinner, but better than ever. That same year, he squished Jeff Garcia in the Packers' first round playoff game, his first sack since 1997 (which you can read about here).
And finally, when he tore his biceps early in what would turn out to be his final season, he didn't shut it down. He gutted out fourteen games with an extremely painful injury because without him, the Packers' defensive line was ridiculously thin.
So while the black visor and the tackle celebration are fun, beneath the pro wrestler image, there was more to Gilbert Brown. The Gravedigger got the headlines, but Gilbert Brown the sacrificial teammate is the one really worth remembering.