A Massachusetts native, Gordon Browne wasn't so much of a Patriots fan as he was a football fan. And while playing offensive tackle at Boston College, he, in a sense, experienced protecting NFL players for the first time.
"Before either my sophomore or my junior year, while they were building what used to be called Schaefer Stadium out in Foxborough, the Patriots played at Harvard one year and then they played at Boston College the next year before they moved into their new stadium," Browne said. "And so I worked the home games for the Patriots as security, if you will, around the field. Unbeknownst to me, that was sort of my exposure to professional athletes prior to actually being one."
Browne took his first step to "being one " when after playing well in the 1974 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, against Tennessee State and future Dallas Cowboys defensive end Ed "Too Tall" Jones, he boarded a plane home and unknowingly became acquainted with his immediate future.
"I flew back to Boston with Mike Holovak," Browne said. "Mike Holovak wasn't known for his time with the Jets, he was known for his time as the head football coach of the Patriots and was an alumnus of Boston College, but he was the Jets' assistant general manager at the time.
"He praised me for what a great game I had and wished I hadn't gotten hurt at the beginning of the third quarter. I had a hip pointer and didn't finish out the game, but I had had a pretty successful game against Jones. And he says, 'You played very, very well, and you did your college proud.' But he didn't indicate anything that he had any idea that I was going to get drafted by who.
"Well, when the draft comes and the call came (from the Jets that they had chosen me in the second round, and) to get on a flight ASAP to New York, lo and behold, the first person I see was Mike Holovak. He said, 'It goes to show you it's not a bad thing to have an alumnus on the plane and somebody working for the team that just drafted you in the second round.'"
After meeting with the coaches, Browne would later head to Chicago to play in the College All-Star Game against the defending Super Bowl Champion Miami Dolphins. But after practicing for nearly two weeks, the game was cancelled because of a players strike, and Browne headed back to New York for training camp.
"It was pretty sparse because it was just rookies and free agents. There was no looking for Winston Hill or John Riggins or Joe Namath or Jerome Barkum or Richard Caster or John Ebersole, or any of those guys. They were picketing and we had to walk through them. Of course, that didn't go too well. I mean, they understood from the standpoint of things, but on the other hand, they were looking for support," Browne said.
"But things ended fairly quickly and got somewhat resolved, and in the middle of the week in the last week of training camp, the veterans came back. Of course, all of the snaps go to them, so you go from 60 miles per hour to zero real fast.
"Quickly, you went from a strike to a team atmosphere where things were starting to pull together and starting to do things together as a group. And as that happened, you start to learn things here and there. Bob Ward was our offensive line coach, and he didn't tolerate any garbage. We had Winnie Hill and Randy Rasmussen and Gary Puetz and Robert Woods and Wayne Mulligan, that was the starting group and there was nobody really pushing them at that point. Hell, I was still learning the plays because I got in so late to camp. I was weeks and weeks behind."
Spending his rookie season and the following year playing on special teams and backing up Hill and Woods, in 1976, Browne's progress took a hit when he took a hit, as well, during a training camp scrimmage.
"I separated and dislocated my left shoulder. So I spent the first five games of the preseason not practicing at all," Browne said. "And it wasn't until two days before the sixth preseason game that happened to be against the World Champion Pittsburgh Steelers, that it was my chance to finally get out and practice and try to play.
"And frankly speaking, I played poorly and it led to my release. So that was that. I was one of the last players released. And, in fact, the person who came into the locker room to say, 'The coach wants to see you,' was Mike Holovak. That was his job. He was the Turk."
Granted, Browne's playing career may not have been as lengthy as he or the Jets would have hoped, but what's one of the fondest memories from his time wearing the Green & White?
"The fact that I got a chance to play. I got a chance to make it," Browne said. "I look at it as both as an honor and a privilege to have had the opportunity to represent not only my high school, but college, and play professionally. To this day, I'm still happy to occasionally see some of the players."
Browne and his wife, Sheri, make their home in Fort Worth, Texas. They have five children, six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
For the past several years, he has worked in sales and marketing as a physician liaison for Texas Health Resources.
"It's a very large healthcare network, basically spread out over almost all of North Texas. They own 13 acute care hospitals," Browne said. "I basically do the liaison work by calling on the physician's practices and taking care of anything that has to be done with regards to requests, issues, complaints. I see what we need to talk about, what we have to plan, meet with the appropriate people, and we come up with the resolution.
"It's the thrill of solving the problem, whatever the issue is. You're trying to get the physicians to want to use your facilities. And it's always a challenge. You don't get to talk to them very often when they're at their friendliest. You get them when they're at their most challenging part of their day. You have to make something happen in a short period of time and I love the challenge."