Bengals nation mourns loss of former star DE Ross Browner at age 67

Ross Browner (courtesy Bengals Communications)


Ross Dean Browner (March 22, 1954 – January 4, 2022) was an American football defensive end who played ten seasons in the NFL, mainly for the Cincinnati Bengals. Browner was named to the Bengals’ 40th Anniversary Team in 2007.

College years

Ross Browner was one of the most decorated defensive players in the history of college football. At the University of Notre Dame he was a four-year starter at defensive end in 1973 and 1975–77. He was a unanimous All-America his junior and senior seasons of 1976 and 1977. In 1976, he won the Outland trophy as the nation’s best interior or defensive lineman also in 1976 United Press International named him Lineman of the Year. He won the Lombardi Trophy as the nation’s best lineman and the Maxwell Award as the nation’s best player and again won the UPI Lineman of the Year Award, the only player ever to win it twice. In the decade of the 1970s, Browner was the only lineman who won the Maxwell. In 1977, he also placed fifth in voting for the Heisman Trophy. During his senior year in college, he was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated with the subheading of “Notre Dame’s Peerless Ross Browner.”

Notre Dame had a 39–7 record in his time that covered 11–0 in 1973, 8–3 in 1975, 9–3 in 1976, and 11–1 in 1977. Notre Dame won National Championships in 1973 and 1977. His career statistics record 340 tackles, a school record; ten deflected passes, two blocked kicks. He also scored a touchdown and two safeties. Browner was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999.

Professional career

He was the first-round draft pick in the 1978 NFL Draft for the Cincinnati Bengals. Voted the team’s Most Valuable Player in 1978, he played nine seasons for the Bengals. He set the Super Bowl record for tackles by a defensive lineman in Super Bowl XVI. In 1985, he jumped to the Houston Gamblers of the USFL, but returned the same season to the Bengals. Browner played one season (1987) with the Green Bay Packers before retiring.


He died from complications of COVID-19 on January 4, 2022, at the age of 67.


An explosive defensive end who is fifth on the Bengals all-time sack list with 59, Browner had a game-high 10 tackles and the Bengals’ only sack of college teammate Joe Montana in Cincinnati’s 26-21 loss to the 49ers in Super Bowl XVI.

Ross Dean Browner was born on March 22, 1954 in Warren, Ohio, the oldest of football’s legendary first family.  Six brothers were all high school All-Americans and three of them followed Ross to the NFL. The next youngest, Jimmy, played with him for a year in Cincinnati. His son, Max Starks, a tackle, played nine of ten NFL seasons with the Steelers and won the Super Bowl twice that his father lost once.

Browner started 121 games in his nine seasons with the Bengals and retired after playing 11 games with the 1987 Packers. His career-high nine sacks helped fuel the AFC champion Bengals’ 12th-ranked defense in 1981 and was a big part of “The Web,” defense that also got 11 sacks from linebacker Reggie Williams and 10 from the other end, Eddie Edwards.


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