#6 Ross Browner: Notre Dame Football’s Top 25 Players

Ross Browner - Notre Dame DE
Photo provided by Fighting Irish Media

#6 Ross Browner, DE, 1973, 1975-1977

Ross Browner was a high school phenom at Western Reserve High School in talent-rich Warren, Ohio.


There were two great prep defensive linemen in 1972 in Ohio.  One was Gary Jeter of Cathedral Latin in Cleveland. Browner was the other.  Jeter looked like Adonis in high school and passed the eye test as clearly as anybody since George Connnor.  Greg Blache confirmed that the Irish were high on Jeter, but that he had a tendency to take a play or two off.  Blache indicated that the staff was higher of the kid from Warren Western Reserve, Ross Browner, because “He never takes a play off.”  Blache was correct and then some.


Browner drew gasps as a frosh on the preseason practice field.  While defensive back Luther Bradley was the first to receive a starting nod, Browner followed a few days later.

In his first game as a frosh against Northwestern, Browner blocked a punt so violently that it became a safety.  And, for big plays, it was not a false indicator.


Ross Browner, along with several of his classmates, was dismissed from Notre Dame after a dormitory incident in the summer of 1974.  He was eligible for return and did so in ’75, bigger, stronger, more mature, solid enough to set and maintain the edge, but destructive enough to cause disruption in any offensive backfield.


What about Greg Blache’s claim that Browner “never took a play off?”

We below list some of Browner’s signature plays against outstanding opponents.  But he was true to Greg Blache’s claim.

According to statistics published on www.und.com, the official source of athletic information for Notre Dame, Browner aggregated 340 tackles, the most by a defensive lineman since they started keeping a tally in 1956, and accumulated 77 tackles for loss, an astounding average of 19 per year, for a total of 515 yards in losses, according to official records. He even scored a touchdown.


These statistics are repeated from the article on our #11 ND all-timer, Luther Bradley. Browner arrived at Notre Dame after a 6-year drought (0-4-2) against USC.

In the 1970’s Notre Dame played 10 games against USC.

In the 6 games in which Ross Browner (and Luther Bradley) did not participate, USC scored an average of 39 points per game. In the four games in which  Browner participated, USC scored 18.5 points per game, roughly 50% of what USC scored in the other games.

Notre Dame won 2 games in the 70’s against USC.  Ross Browner participated in those wins in ’73 and ’77. Of course, Notre Dame won National Championships, one under Ara Parseghian, and one under Dan Devine, in those years.

Notre Dame, in that whole decade, did not defeat USC unless Browner was on the field.

That is the quintessential definition of a “difference-maker.”


1975-against USC, Browner blocked USC punts on consecutive plays (the first was disqualified on a penalty against the Irish).

1976-on the game’s opening play against Tony Dorsett and Pitt, Dorsett, a burner, broke lose, but Browner never relinquished his pursuit or his angle and brought Dorsett down from behind.

1977-Cotton Bowl. Unbeaten Texas came to the line of scrimmage for its 6th play, a 3rd and 1.  Randy McEachern started to run a Wishbone pitch play but was confronted by a “where did HE come from?” Ross Browner, who batted the ball away from McEachern and then recovered it on the Cotton Bowl Astroturf.   The score was still 0-0 but the Longhorns, Earl Campbell and Lam, Jam and Ham knew what they were up against.   Notre Dame 38-Texas 10.  National Championship to the Irish!

Browner in 1973 and 1977 won National Championships.  He is  a College Football Hall of Fame inductee.

Ross Browner?  Big plays and Every play.   We have yet to see another one like him.

Go Irish!

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  1. So many greats hard to make the list without somebody questioning it,I know im guilty of it.That being said my guess is bertelli montana hart lujack gipp or I might be wrong .Hurry up duranko the suspense is killing me lol

  2. There’s not enough spaces left. Gipp, Lujack and Hart are shoo-ins’ for 3 of the 5 remaining. If not, the whole list is bogus. T’eo, Montana, Duranko, Bobby Taylor, Casper, Bettis, Watters, Ferguson, Denson, Sitko, Adam Walsh, and Heisman winners Bertelli and Huarte can all have cases made for them. Neihaus, McCoy, Eifert, Faine, Ruddy, Groom, Jim Martin and at least one of the Four Horsemen.

  3. I have not seen Johnny Lujack’s name. I would like to see this list changed to say the best in a 10 year span. With football changing so much over the years it seems unfair to select over the last 110 years as a group.

  4. Yes I remember the 75 usc game on abc thinking about how much keith jackson was pro sc.Al hunter rip off a big run early then that was about it the whole offense struggled in that game Keep up the good work thanks

  5. Well, Bart, now you have opened a Pandora’s box, but in a good way.

    I have much to say about Niehaus, but that is treated in the Ara Raoul Parseghian article that is forthcoming. To give you the punch line, Niehaus skyrocketed in ’72 as a true frosh, and then he was injured in a non-contact injury. He came back to be an All-american and a successful pro, but he never regained the remarkable quickness he had demonstrated as a frosh.

    Fry, and he was good, Browner, Hunter and Bradley were suspended for a dormitory incident in the summer of ’74. It was a scandal then, but a different era. all hush hush, no expose’s.

    I THINK, but am not certain, that at least Bradley and Browner went to IU-Indy, as they were suspended but not expelled. Bronwer was strong, but wiry as a frosh in ’73. He came back thick as a brick, to use the then au courant Jethro Tull image, when he returned in ’75. The kid had become a man.

    When they came back in ’75 they played with Niehause and, I think, stock, in 1975

    A bunch of us were at ND stadium against USC in ’75 (Ring ricky’s Bell, remember?- archie Bell of the Drells brother) when Browner blocked those two consecutive field goals. It didn’t have the cache of the other big plays mentioned, but I had never seen anything like it.

  6. Rip willie fry probably just as good as browner at times solid d line.Did browner start with fanning niehaus stock also in 1974 or 75

  7. Well, let’s line them up

    Page, Hardy, Duranko and Rhoads

    Patulski, Swendsen, Marx, McCoy with big Mike Kadish along for the ride

    Browneer Fry, Dike Calhou-Dike and Calhoun were perfect to play between Browner and Willie Fry.

    Willie Fry?
    Will he Fry?
    Will he bake?
    Will he taste good?


  9. I think the greatest def player nd ever had so much skill also thought walt putilski was great as well but dont see him in top 25 though

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