Baltimore Ravens rookie wide receiver Daniel Brown has made steady progress since the start of organized team activities this year. Making the jump from James Madison University to the NFL is not an easy task. However, this isn’t the first time that Brown has been faced with having to adjust to a larger arena.
Brown played high school football at Isle of Wight Academy, which is located in the “757 area code,” an area in Virginia known for producing NFL players such as Michael Vick, Russell Wilson, Kam Chancellor and Michael Robinson. He takes pride in being from the area.
“My teammates in college used to give me a hard time because I am from the 757,” Brown said. “I am from kind of the outskirts of that area. There’s a ton of talent that comes from that area so there’s a reputation that has to be lived up to.”
Brown helped the small school win three-consecutive state championships from 2005 – 2007. He was named first-team All-State as a senior. Brown stood out on the baseball field also, earning first-team All-State and All-conference honors as a senior playing first base.
While at Isle of Wight Academy, Brown became known as the school’s “Mr. Athlete.” He played forward on the basketball team and was known for being able to dunk on his opponent and also be a threat from three-point range. He earned first-team All-State and All-Conference honors as a junior and senior.
His time on the basketball court, specifically playing in the low post has helped Brown on the football field.
“A lot of playing in the post has to do with being a receiver. It’s like going up for a rebound. It’s all about timing and getting the ball at the highest point,” Brown said. “In football, if it’s a fade in the end zone or a deep ball, timing and using my size to my advantage is important. Playing basketball has helped a lot with that.”
Despite his many high school accomplishments, Brown didn’t receive many offers from colleges. He wanted to attend James Madison because of their business school, which is one of the best in the country. The fact that he could get a high-class education and play football was a big factor in his decision to attend. He won the Colonial Athletic Association Commissioner’s Academic Award while majoring in computer information systems.
Brown earned a scholarship one year after walking onto the football team. Brown’s contributions increased every year after redshirting as a freshman. He appeared in 39 games at James Madison and recorded 91 receptions for 1,450 yards including 17 touchdowns.
Unfortunately, Brown was stuck in a similar situation when his college career ended. He proved that he was a difference maker while in college but didn’t attract a lot of attention from those at the next level. Just as he did before, Brown rose to the occasion. This time it was at his pro day in front of NFL scouts. The scouts were impressed with his size (6’-5’ and 227 pounds) and his quickness (4.19 short shuttle). The fact that he caught every pass thrown his way certainly helped as well.
The Ravens showed the most interest and brought him into mini-camp. The big receiver is learning how to better use his body to win in his routes and at the catch point. He was able to string together some solid practices last week when the team had joint sessions with the Philadelphia Eagles.
The success trickled over to game day when Brown made his first catch as a pro, a 28-yard touchdown. Apparently, Brown has a thing for making a splash first impression. His first catch, as a college player was a 41-yard touchdown against North Carolina.
Brown has the right mentality when it comes to approaching this opportunity.
“You don’t know how many reps you’re going to get, so you have to make the most of the ones that you get. If they throw your way, you have to catch it,” Brown said. “I’ve improved at getting off the line, using my hands against press which is big in this league. The veterans, especially Steve Smith have told me to be physical at the line and to use my size against press.”
It is important for players in his situation to get good plays on film. Brown knows that he is being evaluated on every play and has to make plays in order to make the 53-man roster. It’s clear that he and third string quarterback Bryn Renner are developing a nice connection from working together so much in practice. The touchdown catch against the Eagles was an example of that connection. Quarterbacks usually don’t throw the ball to a receiver when he is covered and has a safety lurking in the area.
The biggest thing that he had to adjust to was the speed of the defenses. Everyone is fast in the NFL. Brown says that he only focuses on what he can control. For that reason, he goes out and puts in the hard work every day. The attack work ethic displayed by Brown on the football field is fueled by the people who have doubted him.
“I feel like coming from high school, walking into college and then coming to Baltimore, I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder. Not in a nasty way,” Brown said. “I’ve always had a certain work ethic. People have counted me out, kind of like an underdog guy. I want to prove people wrong.”
That work ethic is something that stood out to Baltimore Ravens Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman.
“He [Brown] is one of those guys that continues to work every day. He comes in, works hard like the rest of the guys. The level of competition has allowed him to accelerate his growth in the offense and in his individual play.”