INDIANAPOLIS – The role of a gunner in football isn’t the most flattering position on the gridiron.
Lined up on an island and across from sometimes a pair of defenders, the gunner’s job is to beat the man (men) across from him, before trying to tackle the opposing team’s elusive returner, in the open field.
One more thing, anything goes on this island.
“No rules. It gets real out there,” Colts gunner
“If you want to put your kid on punishment, put two guys on him and make him run down the field where there’s no rules. You got to really want it.”
Brown has proof of how “real” it is.
A plate and five screws in Brown’s broken left hand haven’t slowed down the Colts Pro Bowl special teams representative on the 2014 ballot.
Week-after-week as single teams have turned into double and the occasional triple team, Brown has continued to change field position.
Brown has downed seven punts inside of the opponent’s 10-yard line in 2013 with six of those coming inside of the five-yard line.
He has forced an additional 13 fair catches according to his special teams coach Tom McMahon.
On last week’s “Pagano Show”, Chuck Pagano backed up the stats that indicate just how important Brown is to the Colts.
“If he isn’t in Hawaii, I’d be shocked,” Pagano said of Brown. “He’s played great football all year and to have surgery Tuesday morning, put a plate in his hand, put a cast over the top of that thing then to go play the way he played, there’s no tougher guy on our football team than Sergio Brown. I respect that kid so much and what he does for this program, our team and for this organization.”
Perhaps Brown’s biggest advocator inside the Colts locker room is punter
After virtually every one of Brown’s downed punts, there’s McAfee jogging down field to celebrate with the guy he calls the league’s best.
“To find that kind of dominant player and dominant performance on 4th downs and returns is very special,” McAfee says of Brown.
“No matter what they throw at him, he makes a play. That’s why he’s so special and that’s why we have the best special teams player in the league.”
On Sunday, we saw more evidence of why McAfee makes such a bold claim.
Early in the second quarter, the Colts punt unit trotted on the field for a fourth-and-three from the Indianapolis 43-yard line.
Brown lined up on the right side of the field with McAfee aiming his punt to that side.
On the snap, Brown easily beat Andre Hawkins opposite him but in order to down the punt, he had to allude returner Brandon Tate before the ball bounced into the end zone.
Brown went around Tate and with his left hand bandaged up, the gunner batted at the ball with his right (good) hand. The ball bounced back into play with Brown keeping both his feet out of the end zone to avoid a touchback.
Colts coaches and teammates rejoiced on the sidelines serving another indication of just how unique of a skill set Brown brings to the special teams unit.
Assistant special teams coach Brant Boyer was one of those coaches.
For a decade, Boyer was a special teams stalwart on playoff teams and his example has given something for Brown to aspire for in a facet of the game that can change momentum.
“You see how important special teams is to the game,” Brown says. “It might get unnoticed but it’s very important to the game. You see a guy like that who’s played 10 years in the league, you see the longevity it can give you with your career.
“Just take advantage of the opportunities. Whoever works harder, is going to get it done.”