Charlottesville’s Greatest Athlete

Sign & portrait of Rosey Brown

Charlottesville, as home of The Cavaliers, is a grand stage for athletes. Who, among thousands of possibilities, stands out as our greatest of all time? Ask hometown experts and Cavalier faithful alike, and you’ll get numberless answers that will lead you skipping down memory lane. But if you ask the Virginia Department of Transportation, you’ll receive only one answer. Here, Charlottesville historian Micheal Dickens, recounts a legend:

Roosevelt “Rosey” Brown was the greatest football player to have ever suited up for a game in Charlottesville. Already a member of the NFL Hall of Fame since 1975, he was elected in 2019 to the league’s 100th Anniversary All Time Greatest Team.  A legend at offensive tackle for the New York Giants, he played in nine Pro Bowl games and overwhelmed defensive players for thirteen seasons.

U.Va. did not accept African-American players to its football program until 1970.  

Brown was raised in the 1930s and ‘40s on Fifth Street and attended Charlottesville’s segregated Jefferson School, where he played high school football.  After finishing school in Charlottesville he enrolled at Morgan State University, an historically Black university in Baltimore, where he became Captain of the football team and an All-American.  In 1953 he began his storied professional career both as player and coach in the NFL, all for the New York Giants.  When he died in 2004 his body was brought home to rest in the community where he grew up, and where he first played the game he loved.

If you are a guest at one of the hotels along the Main Street corridor out for a walk to see Charlottesville, stop at the Roosevelt Brown Boulevard corner to read this sign about Charlottesville’s greatest homegrown sports legend. If you are a student at the University of Virginia out for a jog, or walking to the Downtown Mall to meet friends, when you see this sign, contemplate what might have been.