Former Ole Miss player and head coach Billy Brewer passed away Saturday, the program confirmed. He was 83.
“As a coach and player, Billy Brewer shared a love for Ole Miss that was unparalleled,” Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke, himself a former Rebels player, said in a statement. “He was greatly admired by his players and his teammates and will forever be engrained in the history of Rebel Football. Our prayers go out to the Brewer family and all of Rebel Nation during this time.”
A Columbus, Miss., native, Brewer starred as a defensive back while in the late 1950’s; he later earned a spot on the Rebels’ All-Century Team. A 20th round selection of the Washington Redskins, Brewer jumped into coaching after his playing career ended, first as an assistant at Southeastern Louisiana and later as head coach. Brewer went 38-24-2 as head coach of the Lions from 1974-79, which led him to Louisiana Tech, where he led the Bulldogs to the Division I-AA semifinals in 1982.
Brewer’s alma mater came calling after the ’82 season, when Steve Sloan left Oxford to become the head coach at Duke. Inheriting a 4-7 team, Brewer immediately led the Rebels to a 7-5 mark and an Independence Bowl mark. Brewer led Ole Miss to four bowl games and two top-25 finishes while claiming two SEC Coach of the Year awards in his 11 seasons at the helm. His 67-56-3 mark still trails only College Football Hall of Fame coach Johnny Vaught for the most wins in Ole Miss history.
“He dearly loved Ole Miss and he thought it was his job to win. To do whatever he could do to win and that’s what he did,” longtime Mississippi sports columnist Rick Cleveland told the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. “He faced tremendous odds when he got there. The facilities weren’t up to grade with everybody else he was trying to beat. He was fighting against all odds trying to win.”
Brewer leaves behind two sons and five grandchildren; one of Brewer’s sons is longtime college assistant and current Philadelphia Eagles wide receivers coach Gunter Brewer.