Former Raven Orlando "Zeus" Brown was remembered Friday as a force on the football field, a jovial character who liked to have a good time and a devoted father who would do anything for his five kids.
Memories of the 6-foot-7, 370-pound offensive tackle were shared at his funeral at Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton. Hundreds of family members, friends and former teammates gathered to say goodbye to Brown, who died last month of complications from diabetes at age 40.
Former Ravens players Ed Hartwell, Michael McCrary, Jonathan Ogden, Wally Williams, Brad Jackson and Sammy Williams sat side by side in pews toward the front. The football team from Howard D. Woodson High School in Washington came in red-and-white jerseys to pay homage to a man who played for their school two decades ago. Students from DeMatha Catholic High School came in their navy-and-burgundy blazers in support of Brown's son, Orlando Brown Jr., who is a football player at the school and looks a lot like his dad.
Brown's son, known as "Little Zeus," drew applause from the crowd when he said his job now is to take care of the family like his father did.
"We all loved our dad," he said, surrounded by his siblings. "It is too bad he left so soon."
Brown played for the Ravens from 1996 to 1998 and from 2003 to 2005. Before that, he played for the Cleveland Browns, joining the club as a free agent in 1993 and playing there for three seasons.
His No. 77 Cleveland Browns jersey and No. 78 Ravens jersey were displayed in frames at the front of the church.
Before the funeral, a slide show chronicled Brown's life, from a child growing up in Washington to his football years and life after football. Many images were of his three sons and two daughters at a Six Flags amusement park or birthday parties.
Former Cleveland coach Bill Belichick wrote a letter that was read to the crowd. He described Brown as a hardworking player whose skills improved with each season.
"While his passing was sudden and way too early, he was an inspiration to all of us," Belichick wrote.
The coach recalled one season when he told the players they had to wear a suit to travel to a preseason game. Brown complained that he didn't have a suit and that no one made them in his size. Belichick had one made for Brown, who came to his office to thank him and model the outfit.
"Don't I look good," Belichick recalled Brown saying in his good-natured manner.
As a young man, Brown played the clarinet in junior high school and sang in the choir at East Friendship Baptist Church. The pastor from his childhood church officiated at Friday's funeral.
Brown will be buried in Plum Branch, S.C., where he used to spend summers with his grandparents and other relatives on the family farm.
"He is now wearing a different uniform," said the Rev. Melvin Maxwell during the eulogy. "He's wearing a different pair of cleats. I believe there was a draft in heaven."
Brown was found dead in his Inner Harbor apartment Sept. 23. The state medical examiner said he died of diabetic ketoacidosis — severe complications associated with the disease. The medical examiner said there is no evidence Brown knew he had diabetes.
After the funeral, friends said the service, which was as celebratory as it was sad, was a fitting tribute.
"He was a giving and pleasant young man," said longtime family friend Yvonne Evans of Bowie.
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