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Fullerton's Jerry Brown Weighing Offer From Vikings

June 12, 1988|From Staff and Wire Reports

Jerry Brown, an assistant coach at Cal State Fullerton, is weighing an offer that would make him the Minnesota Vikings' first black assistant coach in the 27-year history of the franchise.

Brown, 38, is Fullerton's offensive coordinator and associate head coach. Viking General Manager Mike Lynn offered Brown the job of assistant offensive coach after interviewing him Friday.

Brown returned to California to discuss the offer with his family. A Viking spokesman said Saturday that the team had not yet heard back from Brown.

The Vikings and Indianapolis Colts are the only two NFL teams that do not have a black coach on their staff. The Colts have had black assistants in the past, however.

"We have not offered the job to Jerry because he's black," Lynn said. "We offered it because we think Jerry's the best individual for the job. If he were green, he'd get the job."

The idea of getting a black coach appealed to black Viking players such as wide receiver Leo Lewis.

"Professionally, we'd expect the same job from him as any other coach, but I'm glad this is being done," Lewis said. "It's long overdue. Sometimes a black player needs a coach who can culturally understand, relate to what he's going through."

Viking Coach Jerry Burns said Brown asked why he was interested in him without knowing his technical coaching ability.

"I told him I know his background is that he has a great ability to get along with people," Burns said. "I said I look for people who can get along with people."

According to Fullerton Coach Gene Murphy, Burns learned about Brown in a phone call from Murphy.

"I had heard there was a job opening," Murphy said. "I talked to Jerry Burns. I guess I initiated the deal."

If Brown takes the job, he would be the fourth Fullerton assistant to leave since the end of the 1987 season. Murphy, who called Brown "one of the best friends I've ever had," conceded that losing him would be a big loss. But he said he believes Brown is destined to coach in the professional ranks.

"He's always aspired to be in the pros," Murphy said. "Well, we all aspire to that. The fact is, Jerry has the ability to do it."

Brown would be paid about $70,000 a year, or about $20,000 more than he makes at Fullerton, if he accepts the job. He said he sees himself as qualified for the pro job.

"I'm a talented coach," he said. "I don't want to be hired just because I'm black."

Lynn said the team's absence of black coaches is "not something we're proud of or embarrassed about. We'll hire the best person, regardless of color."

Brown, a native of Kent, Ohio, was a wide receiver and cornerback for Northwestern. He was drafted and released by the San Francisco 49ers. He joined Fullerton in 1980 after working as a graduate assistant at Northwestern, an assistant high school coach in Kent and a coach of the secondary at Eastern Illinois.

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