LSU mourns Brodnax passing

John W. "Red" Brodnax Jr., a native of Bastrop, La. who went on to star on LSU's 1958 national championship football team, died Friday afternoon at age 69.

Brodnax was struck by a van while riding his bicycle in Morgan City.


Funeral services will be held Tuesday at 3 p.m. at Twin City Funeral Home in Morgan City. Burial will follow in the Berwick Cemetery.


An all-around athlete at Bastrop, Brodnax was an All-State running back in football, an All-State pitcher in baseball and a member of the state championship mile relay team. As a senior, he helped the Rams to the 1953 district football title.


At LSU, Brodnax was a three-year starter for coach Paul Dietzel's football teams. Playing alongside Heisman Trophy winner Billy Cannon, Brodnax was named Most Valuable Player of the Tigers¹ first national championship team in 1958.


He went on to play professionally for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Denver Broncos of the National Football League and also played in the Canadian Football League.


In recent years, Brodnax did carpentry work with his older brother, Jimmy Brodnax of Berwick.


"Considering that he was in a bad car accident in 1968, he was in good shape. He still rode his bicycle and did carpentry work," said Red's son, John W. Brodnax III.


He added that he and his father had recently discussed making a trip to Bastrop.


"We were making plans to go up there one weekend. Dad hadn't been there in years, and I have cousins there that I have never laid eyes on."


Brodnax's wife, Linda Dinger Brodnax, died in October.



Comments from former LSU coach Paul Dietzel:


"I am really sad about this (Brodnax's passing). Red has had some difficult times the last few years. His wife actually died just over a month ago. I feel really bad for his family."


"I recruited Red out of Bastrop High School and he was as fine a running back out of high school as I had ever seen. When he came to LSU, he was a running back. But I already had Billy Cannon, who would win the Heisman Trophy, and Johnny Robinson, who was also a talented running back. So I talked Red into playing fullback, which wasn't that glamorous of a position even back then. He turned into a great blocker and was voted by his teammates on the 1958 National Championship team as the MVP of the team that year. What a tribute to a player who played along side a Heisman Trophy winner."


"Red had to be the toughest football player I ever coached. He knocked down more people with his nose than most people did with their whole body. He was a completely unselfish and never complained. He was a fine young man and a real joy to coach."


Former LSU teammate Lynn LeBlanc


"There isn't really all that much I can say about "Red" Brodnax other than just how tough he was. I don't think there was ever a tougher football player than him. I really don't know if Billy Cannon or Johnny Robinson would have been as good as they were without him blocking for them. He was a real hard nosed football player. I don't know if he ever got hurt."


‘"Red' got hurt in a car accident early on and it took its toll on him throughout his life. We actually went down and visited him back a few months ago to try and give him so help after the hurricane and he seemed to be doing really good. But then I heard his wife died and now this happened."


- Matt Deville contributed to this report



- Obituary -


from the Bastrop Daily Enterprise


John Willis Brodnax, Jr.


Mr. John Willis "Red" Brodnax, Jr. died on Friday, Jan. 6, 2006 after a tragic accident. A memorial service for Mr. Brodnax, 69, of Berwick, La., formerly of Bastrop, will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2006 at 3 p.m. in the chapel of Twin City Funeral Home in Morgan City, La. with Bro. Charlie Driskill officiating. Burial will follow in the Berwick Cemetery. Visitation will be held Tuesday from 1-3 p.m. at Twin City Funeral Home.


The 1950's saw the rise of star fullback J.W. "Red" Brodnax, a 1954 graduate of Bastrop High School. He was also selected as an All-State pitcher in 1953-54 and as a member of the all-state mile relay team. The great fullback led the Rams in an impressive career which eventually landed him at LSU.


Brodnax was MVP on the LSU National Championship Team of 1958. He was also selected as Outstanding SEC Blocker by the Birmingham Quarterback Club. In 1957, he returned a kickoff 99 yards, which still stands as an LSU football record. For outstanding achievement in academics, athletics, sportsmanship, and citizenship, he was awarded the Nelson Award in 1958. Brodnax was a three-year letterman and went on to play professional football for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Denver Broncos, and in the Canadian Football League.


Mr. Brodnax was preceded in death by his wife, Linda Dinger Brodnax; son, John Maurice Brodnax; and parents, Hattie Harmon Sprayberry and John Willis Brodnax, Sr.


He is survived by his sons, John David Brodnax of West Monroe, John Willis Brodnax III of Berwick, La, James Terrell Brodnax of Patterson, La., and Billy Joe Brodnax of Denver; daughters, Debra Ann Lolley of Ruston, Vicki Denice Currie of West Monroe, Robin Gale Brodnax of Dallas, and Tammi Lynn Bourque of Beloit, Kan.;  brother, James A. ³Jimmy² Brodnax of Berwick, La.; and sixteen grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews.


In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in honor of J.W. "Red" Brodnax, Jr. to the Louisiana High School Athletic Association Scholar Program, 8075 Jefferson Hwy., Baton Rouge, LA, 70809.

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