The former Auburn Tiger is due back at the Jets training camp at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., for the start of that National Football League’s full-scale training camp on Monday. The free agent signee is battling for a roster spot at middle linebacker and says he is encouraged about how things are going for him after surviving the first rounds of cuts at the mini-camps.
“We start training camp early because we have the first preseason game in Japan,” notes Brown, who will be traveling to Tokyo for an August 2nd game vs. the NFL champion Tampa Bay Bucs. “So far it has been going pretty good for me with the Jets,” Brown says. “I started out fourth string and I think I worked myself up to third string with the mini-camps we had up there. I am looking forward to putting the pads on Monday and really getting to it.”
Brown, who is from Germantown, Tenn., is one of the few key players from the 2002 defense that Auburn must replace.
A hard-nosed player who likes to get physical on the football field, Brown led the Tigers in tackles last season with 97 stops, including nine for losses and 2 1/2 sacks. It was his most productive season as a Tiger after being bothered by injuries earlier in college. The Jets have five exhibition games before they play their regular season opener on Thursday, Sept. 4th on the road against Steve Spurrier’s Washington Redskins.
While Spurrier, the former Florida coach, is quite familiar to the former Tiger, nobody with the Jets is. “I really don’t know anybody from past Auburn teams or from the SEC with the team,” Brown says.
Veteran Marvin Jones is the returning starter at middle linebacker for the Jets. The fourth player selected in the 1993 draft after an All-American career at FSU, Jones has not missed a start for the Jets for the past four seasons. The 6-2, 244-pounder is still the No. 1 MLB after making 148 tackles last season.
No. 2 on the depth chart is Kelvin Moses, who is almost identical in size to Brown at 6-0, 239 pounds. Starting his third year out of Wake Forest, Moses has seen most of his action on special teams. Kenyatta Wright, a three-year NFL veteran signed as a free agent, is a 6-0, 240-pounder from Oklahoma State who is battling Brown for the number three spot.
Brown began his collegiate career at defensive end, but stepped up his level of play when he made the move to linebacker.
After returning from Japan, the Jets play exhibition games on August 10th vs. Cincinnati, August 16th vs. New Orleans, August 23rd vs. the New York Giants and on August 28th vs. the Philadelphia Eagles. The former Auburn player is not sure how many middle linebackers the Jets will keep on their roster. “Two for sure, maybe three, so I am not safe,” Brown tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. “I am trying to work my way up and trying to get better. I am trying to get better at learning the speed of the game, learning how to practice against the pros and learning from the older guys.”
Brown has been in Auburn working out with his former teammates as they prepare for their season opener vs. Southern Cal. Brown says he likes what he is seeing from the Tigers and is expecting his team to put a strong defense on the field at Jordan-Hare Stadium when the Trojans come to Auburn on August 31st.
Brown says playing at Auburn has helped prepare him for the National Football League. “A lot of stuff they do in the NFL is the same stuff we learned at Auburn my last year here,” says Brown, who learned a new system in 2002 when Gene Chizik became defensive coordinator. “A lot of the fundamentals that Coach Whitt (linebacker coach Joe Whitt) teaches you are the same things they do there so there is a lot of carryover from what I learned at Auburn. Coach Whitt helped me a lot.”
Whitt says he enjoyed watching Brown progress as a player and mature as a person from his freshman to senior seasons at Auburn. The veteran assistant coach says that few players he has been around have the work ethic Brown developed during his time at AU. It wasn’t unusual to see him at the football complex soon after dawn by himself running wind sprints or in the evening doing cone drills or some other workout to push himself as a player. Those habits have not died.
“I still work out extra,” Brown says. “You don’t want the next guy behind you to catch you. You have to keep grinding. You have to stay hungry.”
He tries to play that way when he takes the field for the Jets. “I just try to do whatever they tell me to do. Whenever we are doing something I try to play full speed and fly around out there trying to make something happen.”
One of the biggest adjustments he is having to make is going from being the man at middle linebacker for the Tigers in 2002 to being a rookie trying to prove himself with the Jets. “It is hard when you don’t get a lot of reps because they go to the veterans so you have got to make sure you do the mental reps like the coaches would tell players on our team in college,” Brown says. “That never happened to me in college. I am trying to watch what the vets do and learn from them.”