1987 Big 33 Running Back Gary Brown Lost His Battle With Cancer

Written by: Billy Splain on April 11, 2022.


Gary Brown is a local legend in central PA as well as nationwide. The former Williamsport and Penn State running back rushed for over 4,000 yards with 75 touchdowns for the Millionaires. Gary lost his battle with cancer on Sunday. Berwick Athletic Director and 1983 Big 33 player Bo Orlando knew Gary very well. “I played with him at the Houston Oilers for a couple years. He was just an awesome person. Like a little kid. Never a worry, but when the pads went on I was glad I was on his team. I wouldn’t want to have to tackle him. There were four of us from up this area on that team. Me, Gary, John Flannery and Mike Munchac. We called ourselves the “Houston coal crackers”.

They were several years apart so they never played against each other in high school, but Bo said they still had the Berwick-Williamsport rivalry to crack on each other. “Then later when I was looking to get into coaching, who do you think was the first to reach out? Gary. He was at Dallas at the time.  He was just such a great competitor and a beautiful person. We lost a great champion.”

Williamsport sportscaster Gary Chrisman was there for most of Browns highlights in high school and beyond, had this to say about Gary Brown:

“Williamsport lost it’s hero tonight. Gary Brown, the greatest running back to ever come out of our area, passed away tonight, after a courageous battle with cancer at 52. Gary was the epitome of the hometown hero. He loved Williamsport to the end. He never forgot where he came from. Always humble …. He’d always say …..” I’m just a kid who grew up on Lycoming Street.” Ken Sawyer and I did all of Gary’s high school games ……. What a thrill! He loved Williamsport….and Williamsport loved Gary Brown. His career was something personal to us. We followed him with passion and pride …from Penn State …. to his starring days in the NFL. And then we rooted him on as he coached in Cleveland and then for Dallas Cowboys….and most recently, after fighting cancer for a second time…….back in college football, at Wisconsin …..But at the end of last season, the cancer came back, and we prayed for Gary like we’ve never prayed before…. because it was personal …. He was our guy…..our Gary Brown. Thank you Gary for all you gave to us. All the thrills and the lasting memories. You, forever made us Billtown proud! Our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Brown family during this difficult time. The pain is finally gone. Rest In Peace Gary Brown.

Doug Dunbar, CBS 11 Dallas, was also good friends with Brown and made a video with people from all over when he first heard of Garys cancer diagnosis. “The world lost an incredibly good man, father, husband and friend today. When he was diagnosed, I remember we sat at a small table at our local breakfast place back in February of 2020, and he looked me right in the eyes, “Dougie fresh, we’re just gonna saddle up and fight this thing.” That, was the kind of spirit and grit that we all hope we’d have, when faced with a challenge, from the man with the kind of heart that can tell his friends he loves them nearly every time we spoke.”

We talked endlessly about our dreams for our kids.  I can’t recall a time when we were together in the years we’ve been friends, where there weren’t smiles, laughs, hugs, and I love you’s when we said goodbye. The man I wish I could have had in my entire life, only entered in 2016, but I’m a better man for having been your friend Gary Brown. The lives you’ve touched in your journey are too numerous to count, but the Dunbars are forever grateful that your life touched ours in such a close way. Rest easy GB, you have fought the good fight, you have finished the race, you have kept the faith. Forever you will wear the crown of righteousness..