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Williamsport to name street after city native and former pro football player Gary Brown Jr.

Lycoming Street in Williamsport will be renamed after Gary Brown Jr., the local football star who played at Penn State and the NFL.

Brown grew up on the street in the block between Walnut and Elmira streets.

Mayor Derek Slaughter, who first announced the idea, found the recognition fitting. City Council raised the ordinance creating Gary Brown Jr. Way during a Tuesday finance meeting and introduced it at the council meeting Thursday. Slaughter is also Brown's cousin.

"He meant a lot to the community. He was, of course, a standout football player, but he was just a family man and he never forgot where he came from. He really cared about Williamsport, cared about the community, cared about the kids," Slaughter said. "He came back even during his playing days, he did camps, worked with the kids and held clinics."

The street will keep its original name for 911 calls, but signs will also show Gary Brown Jr. Way. The dedication is anticipated next month with Brown’s family expected to attend. Brown died of cancer two years ago.

“Given his contributions to the community ... We felt it was appropriate for Lycoming Street, where his childhood home was, to be recognized,” Slaughter said.

Brown played eight seasons in the NFL, the first five with the Houston Oilers, now the Tennessee Titans. Lycoming Street is at least the second in Pennsylvania named after a former Oiler. The street leading to Scranton High School in Lackawanna County is named Mike Munchak Way after former NFL guard Mike Munchak, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In his final three seasons, Munchak, who also played at Penn State, but years before Brown, blocked for Brown in Houston.

Brown starred as a running back for Williamsport Area High School and then, from 1987 to 1990, at Penn State.

Brown’s legacy grew when he played in the NFL between 1991 and 1999. The Houston Oilers drafted him in the 8th round with the 214th pick, according to www.pro-football-reference.com. He played with them through 1995, did not play in the NFL in 1996 and joined the San Diego Chargers in 1997. He spent 1998 and 1999, his final two seasons, with the New York Giants.

Brown played 99 games and rushed 1,032 times for 4,300 yards and 21 touchdowns.

After leaving the NFL, he returned to his hometown in 2003 to coach running back for Lycoming College and Williamsport Area. He stayed with the college until 2005.

From 2006 and 2007, Brown served as offensive coordinator for Susquehanna University. In 2007, he moved onto Rutgers University as a running backs coach.

Brown returned to the NFL as a Cleveland Browns running back coach between 2009 and 2012. Between 2013 and 2019, he coached running backs for the Dallas Cowboys.

Brown finished his lengthy career in 2021 as the University of Wisconsin Badgers running back coach. He died of cancer in 2022, only 52 years old.

“The amount of kindness that came from him directly to the people around him was unbelievable,” council vice president Eric Beiter said. “To have a homegrown person in your community, go and have such a distinguished career… To have that level of success is unreal, and to not just graduate from Williamsport High School, but then to be a Penn State graduate as well. It makes it even more homegrown.”

Brown is survived by his wife, Kim; children, Malena, Dorianna and Tre; and brothers, Kevin and Ryan. Tre will graduate from Williamsport Area High School in June.

"Thank you," Kevin Brown told council. "We really appreciate it ... We moved to Lycoming Street in '79 I believe. It has really touched me and I appreciate everyone allowing this to happen."

Chase Bottorf is a graduate of Lock Haven University and holds a bachelor's degree in English with a concentration in writing. Having previously been a reporter for the Lock Haven news publication, The Express, he is aware of the unique issues in the Lycoming County region, and has ties to the local communities.

You can email Chase at chasebottorf@wvia.org