May 21 is another shared birthday for the Packers with defensive end Robert Brown who played from 1982-92 and runner Dorsey Levens who played from 1994-2001. Brown was an intense competitor on the field who played in more games than any other Packer defensive lineman in history. He was drafted out of Virginia Tech in the fourth round of the 1982 NFL draft as a 6’2” 240-pound outside linebacker. In 1983, he bulked up to 270-pounds and was moved to defensive end to replace Mike Butler in the Packers’ 3-4 defense.
Brown was not a strong pass rusher, accumulating just 25.5 sacks in his career, but that was also a function of his position in the 3-4. Explaining his responsibilities on the team’s website, Brown noted, “The defensive end did a lot of the dirty work. We were taking on a lot of double teams and giving up our bodies, so we weren’t going to see a lot of sacks.” Generally, he played on the right side and often came out in passing situations when the team would shift to a four-man front. Despite his small size, he even played some nose tackle in 1992, his final year, because of his ability to hold the point and plug holes. Defensive coach Dick Modzelewski told the Milwaukee Journal in 1987 that Brown was a “steady performer” who “comes to practice every day, works on his techniques and plays hard all the time.” Brown should be remembered fondly for his efforts on some lackluster Packer teams.
Levens transferred out of Notre Dame to Georgia Tech where he finally got a chance as a senior in 1993 and was named All-ACC. Drafted in the fifth round by Green Bay in 1994, Levens played on special teams as a rookie before winning the starting fullback position in 1995. He caught 48 passes that season, but fullbacks rarely carry the ball in Coach Mike Holmgren’s offense.
In 1996, William Henderson took over at fullback, and Levens was used as a change-of-pace back to supplement starter Edgar Bennett during the championship season. Levens showed his full potential in the NFC championship game when he amassed over 200 yards in offense highlighted by three key plays: a 35-yard run on third and one, followed immediately by a leaping 29-yard touchdown catch over the defender and then later a 66-yard gain on a screen pass that led to another touchdown.
Levens had good speed for a big man and was a hard runner who bounced off of tacklers. He had outstanding hands and used his blocks very well. When healthy, he could carry the load for the team, but his time in the spotlight was short.
When Bennett ruptured his Achilles the next preseason, Levens stepped in and had one of the three greatest years a Packer runner has ever had, rushing for 1,435 yards and catching 53 passes for 370 more yards – 1,805 yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns. A lengthy contract holdout followed by a leg fracture and ankle sprain caused Levens to miss most of 1998, and, in truth, he was never the same player again; he had lost a step. In 1999, he gained over 1,000 yards again, but averaged just 3.7 yards per carry; he did catch 71 passes that year, though. He was supplanted as the starting running back by Ahman Green in 2000 and left as a free agent in 2002.
(Adapted from Green Bay Gold)
Brown custom card is colorized.