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Former Vikings fullback Bill Brown dies at 80, brain to be donated for CTE study

EDINA, Minn. — Former Vikings Pro Bowl fullback Bill Brown died Sunday morning, Nov. 4, after dealing with health issues the past few years. He was 80.

Brown played for the Vikings from 1962-74 after spending his rookie year with Chicago in 1961. He made four Pro Bowls and was inducted into the Vikings’ Ring of Honor in 1964.

Brown died at English Rose Suites, a memory center in Edina, where he spent the past five years.

“It’s one of those things, you know it’s going to happen but you’re never ready,” said Brown’s widow, Darlene Brown. “The last few years, it’s been going downhill for him.”

She said Brown’s brain will be donated to Boston University’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) Center, where it will be determined if he had the disease.

“With all the concussions, his body took a lot of beating, so we’re going to donate his brain to Boston University,” his wife said. “Until they do an autopsy, they can’t be for sure that he had CTE.”  

Brown rushed for 5,757 yards in 13 seasons with the Vikings and 5,838 in his career. He played in three Super Bowls for the Vikings. His best season was 1964, when he rushed for 866 yards and made the Pro Bowl.  

Brown’s son-in-law was quarterback Rich Gannon, who played for the Vikings from 1987-92 and was NFL MVP with Oakland in 2002. Gannon’s wife, Shelley, was the daughter of Brown and his first wife, Kay, who died in 2004. Darlene Brown was his second wife; the two were married in 2007.

Before Sunday’s game against Detroit at U.S. Bank Stadium, the Vikings had a moment of sideline for Brown and showed highlights of his career on the jumbotron.

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