First-Round Selection Brown Calls Road to NFL "A Great Journey"
INDIANAPOLIS – For Donald Brown, the journey was something to savor.
Brown, a running back, recently became the first player from the University of Connecticut selected in the first round of the NFL Draft when the Colts used the No. 27 selection on him in the 2009 NFL Draft.
Brown declared a year early, but leaving before his eligibility was done didn't mean Brown didn't appreciate the process.
"It's been a long journey, a great journey and I'm proud to be here," Brown told reers shortly after the Colts made him their third first-round running back in 11 seasons.
"I'm very fortunate."
Those who know Brown well said recently he never lost sight of that.
And they say once he decided to focus on football, he never stopped working to transform himself into a better player, and eventually into one capable of playing in the NFL.
Brown, who grew up in Atlantic Heights, N.J., attended Red Bank (N.J.) High School, where he played football as a freshman. At the time, as Red Bank Head Coach Frank Edgerly remembers him, "he was a thinner kid, a little undersized."
But Edgerly said Brown could run, and as a sophomore he played defense.
At the time, Edgerly said when Brown had the ball in his hands, there were signs of something special. But at that point, they were just signs.
Brown wanted to play running back and Edgerly said he told him it was possible, but that there were certain steps he needed to take.
"I said, 'There are things you're going to need to be able to do to carry the ball,'" Edgerly said. "I said, 'Ideally, you have to prove to us conventionally you can run the ball inside hard for us.'"
Shortly thereafter, Edgerly said he saw a change.
"At the end of that season is when this kid made the decision, 'I want to be a football player,'" Edgerly said.
Brown approached his parents, Donald and Lisa Brown, and said he wanted a strength trainer, a speed trainer and a nutritionist.
Lisa soon after the draft said that was the sort of determination Donald often showed.
"He always has wanted to play in the NFL," Lisa Brown said. "We knew he'd get there. He's a determined young man and he's going to do great things."
Brown, of whom his mother said, "he's not very vocal and he tends to lead by his actions," returned to school the following fall a different player, Edgerly said.
"He came back for his junior, and then it was like, 'Wow . . . the progress he made through his senior year,'" Edgerly said. "You saw a kid that was special, but I can't say I could tell you at that point, 'Hey, this kid's going to be a first-rounder.' But what you saw from then, and it's only continued, was a constant progression."
The progression led to Brown rushing for more than 2,000 yards as a senior in high school, then choosing UConn over Virginia in part because of UConn's kinesiology program.
"He was thinking well beyond football at an early age," Edgerly said. "I think that maturity combined with that vision creates that product you have standing up there."
And how Brown has handled himself throughout the process is just as important, Edgerly said. He said it's also what made him a logical choice for the Colts – even beyond the football field.
"Just from a fan's standpoint, from a distance, knowing the kind of people the organization has maintained, in that regard it's a matter of plugging him in," Edgerly said. "He always has been a humble, mature kid. It wasn't like all of a sudden he got into the spotlight and said, 'Listen, I have to present myself a certain way.' The reason he's comfortable in that role is he always has been that kid.
"This wasn't a kid you really had to clamp down on, so the fact that he's coming here, with the kind of person the organization wants . . . I read a quote from (Colts President) Bill Polian that this is everything we want our players to be. The one thing he said is, 'There's zero wrong with him.'
"This is a guy you do not have to worry about where you put him, why you put him there or how you put him out there. He's going to do the right thing at all times."