Friends and family members questioned Bill Brown’s judgment last spring when he committed to playing one season of semi-professional football.
After all, 54 was Brown’s age, not his jersey number.
But after a springtime of attempting to chase down and tackle ball carriers half his age, Brown, a Franklin resident who celebrated birthday No. 55 on January 23, returns for another season of suiting up for the Marion County Crusaders.
Only now he comes back as a part-owner with teammate Carlos Avila.
The two purchased the Crusaders in November.
“Believe it or not, I felt a lot stronger during the offseason,” said Brown of his decision to play football deeper into his 50s than he thought he ever would.
Laughing, he added, “I told my wife recently that my knees hurt. She said she didn’t want to hear about it.”
A 6-foot, 205-pound defensive lineman, Brown, a 1980 Ben Davis graduate, is the team’s oldest player by nearly two decades over defensive lineman Richard Hurst, 38.
Most of the Crusaders are in their 20s; a few are either 18 or 19.
Utilized primarily on special teams last year, Brown helped lead the Crusaders to a 5-3 record during the regular season. He also coached special teams and was voted a team captain by fellow Crusaders players.
The team plays home games at the Cardinal Ritter High School football stadium in Indianapolis. The Crusaders open April 22 against the Kentuckiana Cavalry in New Albany with the home opener May 6.
A native of Indianapolis’s Westside, it’s important to Brown that the Crusaders, now the lone Indiana semipro squad competing in the Ohio Football League, provide an athletic outlet for young men who could benefit from a structured environment.
“Another part of it is that as an owner I wanted to keep that mentoring process and reaching players at an early age,” Brown said. “I wanted to get the team to the point where it’s financially self-sufficient.
“I want to grow this thing.”
Name: Bill Brown
Family: Wife Threca; daughters Ashley, 32, and Haley, 24; son Joshua, 27
High school: Ben Davis (1980)
College: Park College (1987)
Favorite athlete: Joe Namath
Favorite team: University of Notre Dame football