Baltimore Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh announced Friday that former OT Orlando “Zeus” Brown died at the age of 40.
No immediate details about the cause of death were available.
Brown played for the Ravens from 1996-1998 and again from 2003-2005. His National Football League career also included two stints with the Cleveland Browns (1993-1995 and 1999-2000). Brown was born in Washington, DC and played college football at South Carolina State.
His NFL career included a three year hiatus after an incident where he was hit in the eye by a penalty flag in 1999. Referee Jeff Triplette accidentally hit Brown with the flag during a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Brown sued the NFL over the incident and received a reported $25 million settlement.
After his NFL career, Brown opened a Fatburger franchise in the Maryland suburbs of DC. He was a longtime resident of the Harborview community in downtown Baltimore. He owned an outsized custom built monster truck, which was a ubiquitous sight throughout Charm City.
WNST.net’s Luke Jones reports that no foul play is suspected in Brown’s death, but the investigation is ongoing.
Ravens LB Terrell Suggs said “he was a beast on the field and a great friend off it. It’s a shame he had to leave us so young” according to the team’s official Twitter account.
As more details are available we will report them on-air (AM1570 WNST), online (WNST.net) and via Twitter (@WNST).
Here are statements from several members of the Ravens family:
Executive Vice President and General Manager Ozzie Newsome
“There was no better friend, no one more loyal than Zeus was to his teammates and those in the Ravens. If he felt that you respected him, that you were willing to teach him or showed him care, you had a loyal friend for eternity. Loyalty is one of the first words I think when Zeus pops in my mind.
“As a player, he came in very raw, but he had a lot of physical ability, that size, and he was naturally strong – and got stronger with his hard work. He had one of the greatest work ethics I’ve ever seen in a player. He was tireless in his passion to become a player. He loved being part of the team.”
Head Coach John Harbaugh
“I want to give our heart-felt condolences to the family of Orlando Brown – to his three sons. I think everybody knows what he meant to this organization, to this team and to the Ravens. He’s still a big part of us. He’s been coming around a lot, working with some of our young players, and we’re forever grateful just for everything he did for the Ravens organization. What he did for the present team, that’s just who he is as a person and who he’s been. I just can’t express our sorrow enough, on behalf of our team and our organization, for his loss today.”
Former Ravens Head Coach Brian Billick
“Orlando will always be one of my favorites. I just told a story about him at our production meeting [with FOX-TV] last week. He brought such passion and physicality to practices and games. There is no way to quantify his heart, his actual love to play football. The game was so important to him. This is such sad news. He was bigger than life. You just feel for his family right now.”
LB Ray Lewis
“I just saw him a few days ago. He’s one of the greatest men I know – really a gentle giant away from the game. He was the original Raven. He set the tone for how we were going to play tough and physical, backing down from no opponent. When you heard his voice on the field, you knew things were going to be all right. He would say: ‘Keep playing. Keep fighting. Do it for us. Do it for your teammates. “Lew,” “Lew,” keep it up!’ I can almost hear that voice right now. And, oh, how he loved his sons. They lost a great father. So sad, just so sad.”
S Ed Reed
“Sadness, this is a sad day. Zeus was a fire-starter. His energy – he would get us going at practices, in training camp and games. How he loved to play football. Heck, he looked like he could still play. I send prayers to his family, to his boys. Be strong. God has their father in a better place.”
OLB Terrell Suggs
“The man you saw on the field wasn’t the person who he was off of it. He was definitely a gentle giant who always had a smile on his face. I’m not really sure what to say right now; I’m just in awe. My heart goes out to his family.
“In terms of football, his first season back in Baltimore was my rookie year [in 2003]. He definitely showed me several ‘welcome to the NFL’ moments. He never went easy on me, and he made me work hard to become better every day.”
OLB Jarret Johnson
“My first image of the NFL was when I first saw Zeus. I thought, ‘They’re sure a lot bigger here.’ He had that dark visor on his helmet, wearing those throwback jerseys under his pads. He was most intimidating and dared you to back down from him. If you did, you were done. He embodied what the NFL – what the Ravens are all about. His willingness to battle along with you – the way he stood up for his teammates – was special.
“This sounds corny, but he was literally the first on the field and the last off. He’d be out there before practice with his helmet on working on something to make himself better. He’d find teammates to stay with him after practice to work on his pass blocking. He challenged me every day and made me a better player. I’ll always be thankful for that.”
T Ramon Harewood
(Brown had spent a significant amount of time training with and mentoring the second-year Harewood.)
“I am at a loss right now. When I think of Zeus, I just have to smile. He was always there to pick you up on a bad day and always had a smile on his face. He was a gentle giant and always seemed to be able to put anyone around him in a good mood.
“He took time out of his busy schedule over the last couple of months to work with me to help me grow as a player. To have a player and man of his stature do that for a young player like myself says all you need to know about him. He was always upbeat, always encouraging and would never let me get down on myself.
“We had similar backgrounds, with me only playing football for four years and him having to work his way into the NFL the hard way. He was an inspiration both as a player and as a human being. I will miss him, and my thoughts and prayers go out to his family. “