NFL.com's "Why I Play" series provides a thoughtful peek into the minds of the next generation of NFL players to better understand what drives them to make it in the league. Other prospects included in this series: TCU DT Ross Blacklock, LSU CB Kristian Fulton, TCU CB Jeff Gladney, Florida edge Jonathan Greenard, USC OT Austin Jackson, Utah CB Jaylon Johnson, Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor, Michigan LB Josh Uche and Minnesota S Antoine Winfield Jr. This edition's featured prospect is ...
Prospect bio (from NFL.com draft profile): Brown is a popular man on Auburn's campus, and he gained enough respect from others in the SEC that he was named to the conference's Student-Athlete Leadership Council in 2017. He was the U.S. Army All-American Bowl Defensive Player of the Year and the Georgia Sports Writers Association Player of the Year as a high school senior with 106 tackles, 42 for loss, and 12 sacks at Lanier High. Brown played in all 13 games as a true freshman (11 tackles, 1.5 for loss) and then became a full-time starter for the Tigers in 2017 (56 tackles, nine tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, two forced fumbles in 14 games). SEC coaches voted him second-team all-conference in 2018, when he started all 13 games, compiling 48 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and two pass breakups from the middle of Auburn's defense. Despite likely being a first-round selection, Brown returned to The Plains for 2019. He won the 2019 Lott IMPACT Trophy, which goes to the defensive player who has the biggest IMPACT (Integrity, Maturity, Performance, Academics, Community and Tenacity). Brown also garnered first-team Associated Press All-American and first-team All-SEC honors and was a finalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award and Outland Trophy after posting 55 tackles, tying for the team lead with 12.5 tackles for loss, collecting four sacks and four pass breakups and causing two fumbles.
This interview, conducted via phone call on April 1, was condensed and edited for clarity.
How I started
I started playing tackle football in a recreation league when I was 9 years old. My parents signed us kids up and I never stopped. During my sophomore year of high school, I got my first offer to play football in college at East Carolina University. The door opened for me to be able to play football and get an education.
My greatest challenge-turned motivation
My biggest challenge in life was finding out I was going to be a father when I was 19 years old. My whole life changed realizing that all of the things my mom and dad did to take care of us, now I have to do those things. Now my son, Kai, is what motivates me. He's why I wake up every day and work hard at my craft, to provide for him. He's given me even more of a reason to do what I do. Sometimes it's hard, but I've learned to put that "dad patch" on my shoulder with pride. One day, he's going to grow up and ask about my career, and I want him to look back at the example I set. So I'm working as hard as I can and to keep my name clean.
My favorite part of the game
Just the thrill and imposing my will on folks. I want to do more than make the league, and I'm nowhere near my peak. I want to expand my knowledge and be in the conversation for a gold jacket when it's all said and done.