You could argue William "Refrigirator" Perry made the obese NFL player fashionable. But I'm not surprised they used Gilbert Brown as the poster child for this story. In the 50's and 60's NFL players were discouraged from weight-lifting; teams were concerned they would grow muscle-bound.
In the 80's the "wide body" or the "front porch" became common; players big enough, literally, to plug holes on the defensive line. They seemed to be a walking contradiction; the morbidly obese professional athlete. I would point out this story mentions Ray Lewis, who I would never put in the Gilbert or Fridge category.