Until 1960, the BC Lions defence had featured a number of talented players and often held them in ball games while the offence caught up. What it lacked was that one player capable of making a game-changing play, an elite talent able to turn the group into a cohesive force and lead by example. In 1961, that “force” arrived in the form of All-American linebacker Tom Brown.
If there has ever been a player to have an immediate impact on the Lions it was Brown who turned the club’s defence into the league’s best within three years. The leader of the famous Headhunters defensive unit, #69 earned all-star status in just his second year and for three straight seasons to 1964. The team’s all-time record for fewest points allowed remains the 1963 season in which opponents averaged only 10.5 points per game and the club went unbeaten in 11 consecutive games.
Brown played a key role in that stingy group and for his effort was recognized as the CFL’s Top Lineman for 1963 and 1964. One little known fact in the days before defensive statistics were published, Brown made 11 solo tackles in the club’s first-ever Grey Cup victory in Toronto over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. He was forced to retire just into the 1967 season due to a neck injury but played 97 regular season games along with two Grey Cups.
Brown was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1984, the BC Sports Hall of Fame in 1987, and was a charter member of the club’s Wall of Fame.