Born: October 16, 1945

Imagine being told that you would never again be able to do the one thing you loved most.

In 1964, after his sophomore season on the University of Missouri football team, Charlie Brown awakened from major knee surgery to a doctor asserting that he had likely played his last down.

Instead, the former Jefferson City standout decided to author a different ending. An inspiring one, actually.

One of the first black players in Mizzou history, Brown stormed back to win the Big 8 Conference rushing title the next season, earning NCAA Honorable Mention and UPI All-American honors. All of which spring-boarded him to a five-year run, in professional football.

That is why the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame proudly inducted Brown with the Class of 2021.

However, he won’t take much credit for his success, attributing it instead to many others. As he put it, in one of his favorite quotes from the Bible, “Iron sharpens iron,” noting that a trainer, coaches and teammates helped to ensure that his name would always be remembered by Mizzou fans.

Yet it almost never happened. The 1964 sophomore season was his first on varsity. (Per NCAA rules at the time, freshmen were not eligible for varsity.)  Brown did outshine Kansas’ great Gale Sayers in that matchup, but he also wrecked a knee later.

Fortunately, in addition to coach Dan Devine (MSHOF 1973), Mizzou had a secret weapon in trainer Fred Wappel (MSHOF 1994).

“They were both like fathers to me,” Brown said. “Wappel assured me, ‘If you do what I say, you will play again.’”

Wappel’s aquatic therapy strategy enabled Brown to rejoin the track & field team the following spring, allowing him to test-drive his knee instead of risking an injury in the unforgiving two-a-days.

Track coach Tom Botts (MSHOF 1977) endorsed it, with Brown gaining confidence by sprinting on the first ever NCAA Indoor championship team.

“Coach Botts was a quiet, inspiring hero,” Brown said.

Teammates, quarterback Gary Lane, running backs Johnny Roland and Earl Denny, and linemen Francis Peay and Russell Washington were also inspirational.

Brown remains one of only two Tiger backs to win a Big 8 conference rushing title. He gained 937 yards in 1965’s regular season and 121 yards in the Sugar Bowl victory over the Florida Gators.

“I was blessed to play with so many talented players,” said Brown, who later was the MVP of the Hula Bowl for college all-stars. “I couldn’t help but be inspired.”

Growing up in Jefferson City, where he played flag football, Brown had numerous positive influences, including his brother, Don Webb, an Iowa State football player who played for the Boston Patriots and was on their All-Decade Team. Another was Mel West, who is the only other Mizzou Big 8 conference rushing leader. West played for the Patriots and New York Titans.

Brown’s parents, who owned a restaurant and later an 80-acre farm where he learned the value of hard work, were also positive influences.

Jefferson City High School coach Pete Adkins (MSHOF Legend 2013) was a mentor. Under Adkins, Brown’s teams never lost a game, and he earned Scholastic Coach Magazine All-American honors, with the program later retiring his jersey number. He also was all-conference in basketball and set numerous track records.

“(Adkins) made it very challenging,” Brown said. “But I saw a coach who wanted you to be your best.”

After college, Brown was drafted by the NFL’s New Orleans Saints for their inaugural 1967 season. In his 2 ½ seasons there, he was the first Saint to return a punt for a touchdown (Dec. 15, 1968), and it has been recognized by NFL Films as the No. 8 all-time return in NFL history.

After 2 ½ seasons with the CFL’s British Columbia Lions, Brown became a teacher and coached football and track.

He later earned a doctorate in Educational Administration, became Deputy Superintendent of St. Louis Public Schools, Superintendent of the Wellston District and the Missouri Assistant Commissioner of Teacher Quality and Urban Education. At Wellston, his leadership helped re-establish its academic standing with the state, and he also restored its athletic program.

Through it all, Brown had the support of his wife, Shirley, with whom he raised sons Charles, Jr. and Danny.

“(Shirley) has been my guiding light. Together, we have become servant leaders, applying the principles I learned in sports, in education and in the Bible,” Brown said.

This has made Brown a Hall of Famer on and off the field.