Cover photo for Ross Browner's Obituary
Ross Browner Profile Photo

Ross Browner

March 22, 1954 — January 4, 2022

A Memorial Service honoring the Life of Mr. Ross Browner will be held on Saturday, January 22, 2022.

Service will be live streamed via ZOOM on Saturday, January 22, 2022 beginning at 3:00 p.m. CST.

Topic: Service for Ross Dean Browner

Time: Jan 22, 2022 03:00 PM Central Time (US and Canada)

To join Zoom Meeting you must copy and paste the URL below to access the ZOOM.

Meeting ID: 860 3470 1395
Passcode: 656185

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Service will also be available for viewing via Facebook Live Stream on the Lewis - Wright FD Facebook page.

To access the live stream you must have Facebook. Enter Lewis - Wright FD in the search bar and you service will be available for viewing beginning at 3pm CST.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the University of Notre Dame, Ara Parseghian Medical Research Fund.

215 Jordan Hall of Science
University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, IN 46556

Celebrating a Life Well-Lived

Ross Dean Browner

Ross Dean Browner was the first of seven children born to the late Jimmie Lee and Julia Geraldine Cook Browner. His is a story of a life well lived, filled with the love of family and those fortunate to be known as a friend. Ross believed that giving of oneself to help others is the greatest gift of all. He was always dedicated, determined, and driven, which led to a legendary career for which he will forever be remembered along with his eternal loyalty, loving care and devotion to his family.

Born in the small rural town of Warren, Ohio, Ross’ story is all about family, a big family. With the addition of an older sister, the Browner clan of eight - two girls and six boys, were their own best friends. They learned that a family who plays together and prays together stays together. The Browners joined Trinity Baptist Church in Warren where Ross accepted Jesus Christ as his savior and at an early age dreamed of becoming a minister. Although his talents were in athletics, his faith remained at the forefront of his character. Ross’ constant motto was: “I must always keep God in my life. Keep God first and then move forward from there.”

When Ross’ dad was not at work in the steel mill, he solicited the help of the boys to build a family home with a fenced-in backyard. It was there in the backyard that they played together and developed the skills that laid the foundation for the Browner’s football legacy. At that time Ross’ focus had really been on swimming, diving, and track, where his event was the hurdles. With his mom chauffeuring the children around to different sports practices, football became a regular routine that Ross grew into, and he began to play more seriously around eighth grade. By his senior year, Ross was the team captain when his high school, Warren Western Reserve, won the State Football Championship. After the game, Paul Brown of the Cincinnati Bengals approached Ross and told him, “I have been watching you play throughout high school. I will be keeping my eye on you.”

The Browners grew up watching Fighting Irish football games on television and Ross dreamed of visiting the campus one day. That dream was realized and magnified when he met Notre Dame’s “Father of Football,” Head Coach Ara Parseghian. After being recruited by over thirty Division 1 colleges nationwide and visiting their campuses, Ross decided on Notre Dame, attracted by not only the televised games, but also by the religious and educational components. For Ross, getting a good solid education was his priority. While at Notre Dame, the team won the National Championship in Ross’ freshman and senior years, and he was a starter there for all four years.

In 1976 his father, Jimmie Browner, Sr. departed from this life and in his last words asked Ross to “take care of the family.” This was a responsibility that he took to heart. Consequently, at the young age of 22, Ross became the patriarch of the Browner Family and in that capacity, dedicated the rest of his career to his father’s memory, determined to make him proud.

Ross graduated from Notre Dame with a B.A. in Economics. During his college career he won some of the most prestigious awards in football that ultimately earned him the title of “the most decorated player in college football history.” Soon thereafter, he became the first-round draft pick for the Cincinnati Bengals. On his call with the Bengals owner, Paul Brown repeated his promise spoken several years earlier after the State Football Championship game, “I told you I would keep my eye on you.” Ross did not disappoint. In his rookie year with the Bengals, Ross was voted the team’s Most Valuable Player in 1978. Later, when the Bengals 1981 AFC Championship Team played in Super Bowl XVI, Ross made the most tackles by a Defensive Lineman in Super Bowl history.

Although Ross spent the season in Cincinnati, he also established roots in Atlanta for the off season. Learning of this, Mrs. Browner said she too wanted to go to Atlanta, whereupon she relocated there with the seven children plus grandchildren Eric and Olympia. By moving to Atlanta with Ross, she felt Ross could better care for his family just as his father had asked of him.

In 1979, Ross was invited by basketball great Oscar Robertson to attend a fashion show and serve as a celebrity guest to award the door prize during intermission. It was there at the Ebony Fashion Fair in Cincinnati that he met Shayla Simpson, the show’s commentator. With Shayla’s travels to a different city every day, Ross enjoyed coordinating schedules with Shayla to meet throughout the Caribbean, Hawaii, Alaska, and Canada when his schedule allowed. After dating for seven years, they married and five years later had one son, Rylan Ross Browner.

As talented as Ross was as an athlete, he was even greater as a man, husband, and father. To know Ross is to love Ross. His extended family includes high school, Notre Dame and Bengal teammates, Ebony Fashion Fair cast, neighbors, and friends. His hearty laugh was comforting and his nurturing spirit a blessing to all. As a father, he was the best role model for integrity, responsibility, and respect that one could ask for. For example, Ross taught Rylan to swim but never forced him into football. At age 12, when Rylan wanted to play football, Ross became a volunteer coach for Rylan’s team to make sure the coaches were instructing him properly. Rylan went on to play for Montgomery Bell Academy, State Champions, and later played for the University of Arizona. Rylan decided to leave football to pursue other educational interests. Ross was again a supporting father.

When Rylan was seven years old Ross learned that he had another son, Max Starks. Max was welcomed into the family as the brother Rylan always wanted. Ross and Max shared a special bond complete with banter that reminded Ross that Max played in three Super Bowls while Ross played in just one. Ross and Max share a Super Bowl record as the first father and son to play in a Super Bowl in the same city, which was Detroit. Max married Dr. Tiffany Calloway Starks and made Ross and Shayla proud grandparents of Waverly and Quincy, and Rylan a proud uncle.

As the eldest of eight children, Ross made big shoes to fill. His outstanding leadership qualities were much admired by his five brothers. Together, they all excelled in sports. All six were All Americans in high school football. All six earned college football scholarships to Division I schools, with four of them progressing upward to the NFL ranks. Ross, Jimmie, and Willard went to Notre Dame. Joey and Keith went to the University of Southern California and Gerald to the University of Georgia, while sisters Olivia and Burdette were their best cheerleaders. The Browners were named #1 of the Top College Football Families.

Ross and Jimmie played for the Cincinnati Bengals, Joey for the Minnesota Vikings, and Keith for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Oldest son Max started for the Pittsburgh Steelers for nine years, followed by a year with the Rams. Keith Browner, Jr. played for the University of California at Berkley and the Houston Texans. Football became the family business. In 1987, Ross’ mother received an esteemed honor when she was named the very first and only NFL Mother of the Year. The award was retired after she was honored. Ross played in the NFL for ten years with his last year for the Green Bay Packers. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999.

Following football, Ross worked in real estate in Cincinnati. He had played in the Freezer Bowl, the coldest wind chill game in NFL history at -37° F, so his plan was to eventually move to warmer climate. In 1992 the family moved to Atlanta where Ross ran his sports entertainment company. In 2005 the family moved to Nashville, Tennessee where Ross worked for Backfield in Motion, a non-profit organization which supports inner city boys. He later worked as Vice President for the U.S. Community Credit Union. Ross also reactivated the dormant Nashville Chapter of the NFL Players Association for retired players and served as president for eight years.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Ross Browner, please visit our flower store.

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