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Mitchell's Braase built legacy on gridiron, hardwood

Ordell Braase accomplished great things as a Kernel, Coyote and Colt. A Mitchell native, Braase died March 25 at a nursing center near his home in Bradenton, Florida. Braase, 87, had battled Alzheimer's disease since 2012. Born and raised in Mitc...

Ordell Braase, a native of Mitchell, was a 12-year veteran of the Baltimore Colts in the 1950s and '60s, including winning three NFL Championships. Braase died March 25 at age 87. (Photo courtesy of the South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame)
Ordell Braase, a native of Mitchell, was a 12-year veteran of the Baltimore Colts in the 1950s and '60s, including winning three NFL Championships. Braase died March 25 at age 87. (Photo courtesy of the South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame)

Ordell Braase accomplished great things as a Kernel, Coyote and Colt.

A Mitchell native, Braase died March 25 at a nursing center near his home in Bradenton, Florida. Braase, 87, had battled Alzheimer's disease since 2012.

Born and raised in Mitchell, Braase graduated from MHS in 1950. He was a three-sport letterwinner for the Kernels in football, basketball and track. He played receiver in football, threw discus in track and played center. He guided the Kernels to the Class A state championship in 1950.

The team started the season with three straight losses before finishing the regular season 9-6. The team clinched its second state title in a three-year span with wins over Huron, Winner, Sturgis, Yankton and Vermillion in the postseason. He was selected for the all-state team that season in basketball.

He went to the University of South Dakota on a basketball scholarship, but also played football and baseball for the Coyotes. Nicknamed "Big Brace," he was an all-North Central Conference selection in football and basketball. In the 1953-54 season, he averaged 12.4 points and 11 rebounds per game. His best basketball game was a 20-point, 22-rebound performance vs. Iowa Teachers College (now Northern Iowa).

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He was the first USD football player ever to be drafted into the NFL when he was chosen in the 14th round by the Baltimore Colts in 1954. The 6-foot-4 Braase was 215 pounds when he was drafted, but reported at 245 pounds after a tour of Army duty in Korea before joining the Colts in 1957 as a defensive end.

He played for the Colts from 1958-67 and was on three NFL championship teams (1958, 1959 and 1968). He was one of three Colts to have played on the city's first three NFL championship teams. (The others were quarterback Johnny Unitas and linebacker Don Shinnick).

In the 1958 NFL title game, the Colts defeated the New York Giants 23-17 in overtime and the game has since become widely known as "The Greatest Game Ever Played." The Colts repeated as champs the following season with a 31-16 win over the Giants.

After Hall of Fame defensive end Gino Marchetti retired in 1966, Braase took advantage of extending playing time, making the Pro Bowl in two of his last three seasons.

In the 1968 NFL title game, Braase recorded three sacks against Cleveland Browns quarterback Bill Nelson in Baltimore's 34-0 victory.

His last game was the infamous Super Bowl III on Jan. 12, 1969, which Joe Namath and the New York Jets won after Namath guaranteed victory over the heavily-favored Colts.

He retired after having played in 157 NFL games, including 122 starts. He retired with two fumble recoveries for touchdowns. He's one of only four South Dakota high school graduates to have played in the Super Bowl. Rapid City Central graduate Adam Vinatieri, Sturgis graduate Doug Miller and Sioux Falls Washington grad Nate Gerry have also played in the Super Bowl.

From 1964 to 1967, Braase served as president of the NFL Players Association.

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He ran a restaurant in Timonium, Maryland, The Flaming Pit, where he and Colts Hall of Famer Art Donovan broadcasted a game-day radio show, "Braase, Donovan and Fans."

Braase is a member of the Mitchell Sports Hall of Fame, Coyote Sports Hall of Fame, South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame and the South Dakota Hall of Fame.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Janice, in 1997. He is survived by four children, Elizabeth B. Hopkins of Darlington, Maryland, Thomas F. Braase of Cockeysville, Maryland, Jonathan K. Braase of Castle Rock, Colorado, and Andrew M. Braase of Perryville, Maryland; six grandchildren and partner, DeAnne Robinson of Bradenton, Florida.

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