Colts Introduce 2009 First-Round Draft Selection Donald Brown
INDIANAPOLIS – He wore a well-fitting sjacket, dark tie and a crisp blue shirt, but what was most notable about Donald Brown early Sunday afternoon was what he wore atop his head, what rested on the nearby podium and what he held in his hands.
On his head: a black Colts cap.
On the podium: a specially-painted football commemorating one of the biggest days of Brown's life.
In his hands:
A blue Colts jersey with white letters and numbers:
Brown, college football's lone 2,000-yard rusher last season, capped what he called a "crazy" memorable weekend on Sunday, a weekend that began with him being the No. 27 overall selection in the 2009 NFL Draft Saturday and ended with a trip with family and associates to the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.
"It's great," said Brown, who on Saturday became first player from the University of Connecticut to be selected in the first two rounds of the draft.
"I'm excited. It's been a long journey. It's been a great journey. I'm proud to be here today with people who mean the most to me – my family. It's a great organization in Indianapolis."
Brown, who left Connecticut with a year of eligibility remaining, brought with him to Indianapolis Sunday a group that included father Donald Brown, mother Lisa Brown, sister Leah Brown, his high school coach, Frank Egerly, and two of his agents.
"That's who I flew out with," Brown said.
While on the flight, Brown said he had time to reflect on the dramatic changes in his life in a matter of hours.
"I was just trying to take it all in," Brown said. "It's a lifelong dream and I was taking all in, because I know next weekend we're back to work. That's what I'm looking forward to."
The last 12 hours, he said, "have been great.
"It really has," he said. "I've been on Cloud 9. At times, I had to pinch myself and say, 'Is this real?' I'm living my lifelong dream of being in the National Football League, so I'm excited."
Brown, who grew up Atlantic Highlands, N.J., and attended Red Bank (N.J.) Catholic High School, spoke extensively Sunday of a recent meeting with the player he long considered a role model, former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber.
The meeting was set up by Brown's agents, and took place at Barber's apartment about 15 days ago.
"I was a big Tiki Barber fan," Brown said. "I learned a lot. He's a great guy. He talked about different things that would come across in an NFL career, the transition from college to pro, how to take care of your body – what he did and the types of training he did – and also the NFL lifestyle.
"I took a lot out of it. A lot of it you already know, so a lot of it just reiterated the facts."
Egerly, of whom Brown said he thinks as a second father and older brother, said Brown's journey to the NFL began in earnest following his sophomore season. That was when a skinny player with focus and determination decided he wanted to take his football career to the next level.
Brown wanted to play running back and Egerly issued a challenge.
"I said, 'We need you to get bigger, stronger and you have to prove to us you can run the ball inside hard for us,' Egerly recalled.
Brown did just that, hiring a personal trainer and nutritionist, building strength and rushing for more than 2,000 yards as a senior.
Brown said Sunday he believes he is joining "a great football team," one that is a good situation for him. He not only rushed for 2,083 yards and 18 touchdowns on 367 carries last season, he also caught 21 passes for 125 yards. Colts President Bill Polian called him a "game breaker" Saturday and Colts Owner and Chief Executive Officer Jim Irsay said the Colts think of him in the same vein as former Buffalo Bills and Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas.
"I'm excited to be a part of it, and excited to get to work," Brown said.
Brown also spoke of the inaugural Donald Brown Player-to-Player Leadership Conference in Red Bank, a mentoring seminar he formed with marketing agent Jamey Crimmins.
Eighty-six athletes from New Jersey schools were chosen from more than 200 applicants.
"With the platform you have in the NFL and all of the tools and resources you have, you can do pretty powerful things," Brown said. "It was about leadership and it was open from grades freshman to high school seniors. The way it worked was each high school student turned in an essay.
"It was about 200 words about leadership: what it means to them and somebody who's a leader in their eyes and why. We received hundreds of essays. Myself and a couple other people, we read through the essays and narrowed it down to 86.
"We had about 80 kids come out to the night. We talked about the different things that come up in college such as drugs, alcohol, time management, academics, priorities, social life. It was very interactive. It was very informal. It was a nice environment. Everyone was comfortable. It was a great night."
Brown said he hopes to start a similar initiative in Indianapolis.
"I plan to be out here for a while," he said.
What Brown said he didn't know until early Saturday evening was the extent of the Colts' interest in him. Once he did, he said a crazy weekend started – not to mention a professional career.
"That's the crazy thing about the draft is you never really know," Brown said. "That's one thing I was told before, 'It's not always the team that shows the most interest that you go to.' That was the case yesterday, but once that phone rang and I picked it up and they said, 'Hey, Donald, this is the Indianapolis Colts. Are you ready to be a Colt?' I said, 'I sure am.'"