SAN JOSE -- Ray Brown stands tall during Super Bowl week in the Bay Area as a reminder of the impacts of two larger-than-life figures in 49ers history.
Long before Brown reached Super Bowl 50 as assistant offensive line coach with the Carolina Panthers, he was steered in that direction by Bobb McKittrick and Bill Walsh.
Brown was a favorite of Bobb McKittrick, who always got the most out of his offensive line with the 49ers. McKittrick is one of a handful of individuals with a hand in each of the 49ers’ five Super Bowl titles. McKittrick was always fond of Brown, saying that he tried harder than any player he coached to do things as he taught them.
Once when extolling the all-around virtues of Brown, McKittrick said, "If I were to walk into a fine restaurant, I'd want Ray Brown with me. If I were to walk down a dark alley in the worst part of town, I'd want Ray Brown with me."
Walsh also held Brown in high regard. The day after then-general manager Terry Donahue told Brown there was no longer a spot on the 49ers’ roster for him, then-consultant Walsh tried to keep him in the organization as a coach.
“Bill calls me the day after I got cut and says, ‘I want to meet with you,’” Brown said. “I and I thought, ‘You want to meet with me? Your team just cut me.’
“So I go in and have this meeting with Bill. He said, ‘You’re one of us. You need to be in this coaching thing. I’ll help you anyway I can.’ It was a real intense meeting. I told him, ‘Bill, I want to play. I’m motivated. Terry Donahue cut me. And I can still play.’ That’s what I wanted to do.”
Brown, one of the organization’s top free-agent pickups, played six seasons with the 49ers from 1996 to 2001. He went on to play four more NFL seasons – two with the Detroit Lions and two more with Washington.
He became the oldest player to start an NFL postseason game when he opened at right guard for Washington against Sesattle in a 2005 NFC divisional playoff at the age of 43 years and 336 days.
Brown began his coaching career with the Buffalo Bills, but made it back to the 49ers in 2010 – after the deaths of both Walsh (2007) and McKittrick (2000).
He helped groom rookie linemen Mike Iupati and Anthony Davis. But Brown was out after one season with the 49ers. Jim Harbaugh did not retain him on his new staff in 2011, and Brown found a new home in Carolina.
“Bobb McKittrick and Bill Walsh, guys who were very influential in my life, not just from a coaching standpoint but being a man,” Brown said. “They helped me out. Those are the guys that pushed me in that direction to coach.”