Gary Brown, who spent seven seasons as the Dallas Cowboys‘ running backs coach, died Sunday after being treated for cancer. He was 52.
“Gary Brown had a big heart partnered with a big smile and a big personality. His energy and spirit were infectious,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said in a statement. “He lit up every room he walked into and touched the lives of those who knew him in such a positive way. Everyone who knew him, loved him. He meant so much to the players he coached and the coaches he coached with.
“His love for his family, football and life was evident each day. He continued to fight, and he never gave up.”
Brown was with the Cowboys from 2013 to 2019 and had three different running backs reach 1,000 yards, including DeMarco Murray, Darren McFadden and Ezekiel Elliott. Murray (2014) and Elliott (2016, 2018) won NFL rushing titles under Brown’s tutelage.
“Great Father, Husband, Coach, and Mentor. Appreciate you and your family more than anything GB,” Murray tweeted. “Thank you for teaching me the way on the field and in life. Appreciate you Gary Brown.”
Brown most recently served as the running backs coach at Wisconsin during the 2021 season. He was unable to travel with the team to the Las Vegas Bowl in December while undergoing cancer treatment.
“I am deeply saddened by Gary’s passing,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said in a statement. “Though he was only on our staff for a year he had a profound impact on our players and our program. We are all better people for having known Gary. He was a tremendous person, a terrific coach and a joy to be around. He had great energy and passion for life and that showed every day.”
Brown was first diagnosed with cancer in his colon and liver during his time in Cleveland, where he coached the Browns‘ running backs from 2009 2012. He underwent surgery and chemotherapy and returned to the sidelines.
Not long after he was not retained on Mike McCarthy’s staff, doctors found a malignant tumor near Brown’s pancreas. He did not coach in 2020 before joining the Badgers’ staff in 2021.
After rushing for 1,321 yards during his college career at Penn State, Brown was an eighth-round draft choice of the Houston Oilers in 1991. He played eight seasons in the NFL with the Oilers, San Diego Chargers and New York Giants, posting two 1,000-yard seasons while a member of the Oilers (1993) and Giants (1998). He retired in 1999.
“We mourn the passing of Gary Brown, a great man who played for Big Blue for two years – including a 1,000-yard season in 1998. Once a Giant, Always a Giant,” the team said in a statement.
Brown is survived by his wife, Kim, daughters Malena and Dorianna, and son Tre.
ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg contributed to this report.