Outside Linebacker Robert Brazile

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Outside Linebacker
Robert Brazile
Team: Houston Oilers

Career: Before Lawrence Taylor showed up in New York, the prototype outside linebacker in the National Football League was Robert Brazile, who played ten seasons at that position for the Houston Oilers. As the old saying goes, linebackers must be mobile, agile and hostile. Robert Brazile was all that.

If Brazile wasn’t great before arriving from Alabama to attend Jackson State University, rooming with Walter Payton would certainly motivate someone to be their best. In 1975, Payton and Brazile became the first pair of first-round NFL draft choices from the same black college to be picked in the same year. Neither disappointed.

Brazile was taken with the sixth pick of the first round. It was part of the bounty Sid Gillman acquired along with Curley Culp when he traded John Matuszak to Kansas City. But Sid wasn’t around to see the pick used. It was new head coach and general manager Bum Phillips who made the selection, although it wasn’t a tough choice to make.

At 6’4″, 230 lbs., Robert was the type of player that made defensive coaches drool and gave offensive coaches nightmares. He had tremendous speed and athleticism for his size. He could rush the passer, backs, stuff the run, pursue from sideline to sideline and strike a ball carrier like a cougar pouncing on his intended supper. Watch any Oiler defensive highlight from the late seventies and you are bound to see #52 somewhere around the ball.

And let’s not forget “hostile.” As a rookie in 1975, Robert was tossed out of a game for hitting Redskin legend Billy Kilmer in the head. Four years later, he bulldogged Dallas’ Tony Dorsett by the facemask. Let’s just say his nickname of “Dr. Doom” didn’t come by adhering to the letter of the rulebook. He was not afraid to stick his nose in the pile.

Brazile came to the right place at the right time. Phillips unveiled a new defense with four linebackers and three linemen. It meant linebackers would do quite a bit of blitzing and were less likely to have a man assigned to block them. It was all the freedom a missile like Robert needed to be effective. He was a starter in his first NFL game and a Pro Bowler his first season.

Both became personal habits for Brazile. He rarely missed a game and made the AFC Pro Bowl squad during his first seven seasons. He was named Defensive Rookie Of The Year in 1975. Brazile made the first of his 13 career interceptions in 1976 and had a career-best three picks the next season while leading the team in tackles. In 1978 and 1979, Brazile was a key member of Bum’s gritty defense that went to back-to-back AFC Championship games. He was consistently among the team leaders in tackles even though opponents often avoided his side of the field.

With the good times came the bad and Robert suffered through those awful Oiler teams of the early eighties, playing his last game in Columbia Blue in 1984. By then, a guy named Taylor had arrived to redefine the position yet again. Brazile now coaches, along with ex-teammate Ken Burrough, for a minor league pro team in Mobile, Alabama.

Houston Highlight: In the 1979 season-opener in Washington, Robert blitzed on an inside stunt rush. He was cut low by the fullback and hit high by a guard that came over to help. Although down on the turf, Brazile rolled over twice and pulled down Joe Theismann from around the ankles for a sack. Houston would win the game, 29-27.

by Bob Hulsey

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