Sept. 5, 2001
By Jack Williams – Pete Brown played football for Georgia Tech in the early 1950s when the Jacket offense ran from a “Now you see ’em, now you don’t” formation. Those guys lived up to an Atlanta tradition. They really were gone with the wind.
An All-America center, Brown was a ringleader on both the 1951 and 1952 teams. With the defense also super-charged, the Jackets pulled off the amazing feat of winning 23 games while tying one and losing none those two seasons. Would you believe a winning percentage of .979?
Count the last two games of the 1950 season against Davidson and Georgia, both of which Tech won, and the percentage for that unbeaten stretch soars to .981
It all culminated in 1952 with a 12-0 record, a National Championship and a 24-7 Sugar Bowl victory over Mississippi under the legendary Coach Bobby Dodd. In that classic season, the Jackets out-scored their opponents, 324 to 59.
The Tech offensive machine had a big weapon at every position. One of the most dynamic certainly was Brown, who crossed up defenses by exploding from center to become one of the best downfield blockers in the game.
Another Tech All-America, linebacker George Morris, a teammate and long-time friend of Brown, explains how the Tech center became such a blocking force.
“Pete came to Tech as a fullback and punter,” Morris said. “After he was moved to center starting in 1951, he used his fullback speed to big advantage as a center. In those days, we ran the old Belly Series. Opposing teams used an even defensive set with no one playing directly on the center’s nose. That enabled Pete to block on the corner and then head downfield as a blocker. I think that was his strongest suit as a player.”
As Georgia Tech begins celebrating the 50th anniversary of its 1951 and 1952 undefeated teams, Brown passed away Monday night after battling a prolonged illness. He will be buried later this week in Chattanooga.
Brown came to Tech from his hometown, Rossville., Ga., where he was all-State in football and basketball. He played linebacker his first season with the Jackets in 1950 and then was shifted to center.
Brown and his teammates suffered through an agonizing 1950 season, going 5-6 and losing to big rival Alabama in Grant Field by the lop-sided score of 54-19. The Crimson Tide was ahead, 35-0, at the half in that game and still used first team players much of the second half. That did not go over well with the Jackets.
After that disappointing season ended, Brown and his buddies got together for a talk. They expressed how great it would be to turn it all around (especially against Alabama) and maybe, just maybe, produce the kind of record that would earn a bowl bid.
Well, Tech turned it around in a hurry. In fact, the Jackets went into the eighth game of the 1951 season against Alabama in Birmingham with only a tie against Duke marring a perfect record. Tech got its revenge with a 27-7 win over Bama, but actually would have liked a few more touchdowns.. The players pleaded with Coach Dodd to leave the first team in as the Crimson Tide had done the year before.
“No way,” Dodd said. “We’ve still got to play Georgia and need to stay healthy.”
The Tech players achieved their top goal by earning consecutive bowl bids in 1951 and 1952. The Jackets beat Baylor, 17-14, in the 1951 Orange Bowl and then capped it all with the decisive victory over Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl the next season.
Brown went on to play two seasons with the San Francisco 49ers as an offensive guard and punter. He also scored big as an Air Force pilot in the Korean War. He later retired from the Air Force Reserve with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
Brown ultimately returned to Atlanta and worked for many years with a former Tech teammate, another All-American, tailback Leon Hardeman in a company that distributed boxes manufactured by the Owens Company in Illinois.
Brown and his wife Jan made a countless number of friends in the Atlanta area. Brown is survived by two sons, Timothy and Jason.
Football remained a big part of Brown’s life all these years and honors continued to come his way. For one, he was inducted into the Georgia Tech Athletic Hall of Fame in 1974. He also became a member of the Georgia State Athletic Hall of Fame and the Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame.
He served for a time as president of the Atlanta Chapter of the National Football League Alumni. He was extremely loyal to Georgia Tech and its football program through the years and long was a driving force in the North Metro Georgia Tech Alumni Club.
Brown was known as a man of many talents. He graduated from Tech with a degree in Industrial Management. But he was quite adept at other things he did not learn in school. For example, he could tear down an automobile piece-by-piece and then put it all together again.
George Morris remembers one more very distinctive thing about Pete Brown. “He operated on his own clock and was quite often late,” Morris says. “One time when he was behind schedule, it proved very beneficial to me. Here’s how it went.
“Pete and I roomed together our first year on the team in 1950. We had taken a nap between two-a-day practices in preparation for the season’s opener. I awoke and said to Pete, ‘I’m going to go ahead and get taped and get ready for practice. See you there.’
“When I got to practice, the captain, Bob Bossons, called the names of the starters for a scrimmage. Both Pete and I were linebackers. He called Pete’s name to start-but there was no Pete. It turns out, he had gone back to sleep and was late for the scrimmage. His absence gave me a chance to start for the first time. As fate would have it, I intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble in the scrimmage. I graded so well, the coaches moved me into a starting linebacker position. That’s how I became a starter at Georgia Tech.”
So far as anyone can remember, Brown was never late on the football field again. He stayed on time and on target and went on to become one of Tech’s all-time greats.
An old timer on The Flats summed up Brown’s football career in this fashion:
“Pete was completely devoted to the game,” the veteran observer said. “He gave everything he had on every play. The Associated Press All-America, the No. 1 all-star team of that day, voted Pete the best center in college football. That proves just how good he was.”
So does the two-year record when Brown was at the center position.
23-0-1! Enough said. Case closed.