Arizona Cardinals wide receiver John Brown was the 91st player and the 16th wide receiver taken in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Brown is small for an NFL player. He’s currently listed at 5’11” (though he was measured at 5’10” at the NFL Combine) and weighs 179 pounds. Out of 256 players taken in the draft in May, only seven were under 180 pounds.
Six months later, the Cardinals are 8-1 and Brown is one of their most potent offensive weapons.
He leads the team in touchdown receptions, and has seven catches of 20 yards or more — including a 75-yard touchdown catch to beat the Eagles and a 48-yard touchdown catch to beat the Rams. Peter King called him the “best rookie in football” on Monday.
Other rookie wide receivers have put up better numbers, but only No. 4 pick Sammy Watkins has made as big an impact on a contending team as Brown.
Considering where Brown came from, it’s a remarkable story.
Since ninth grade, Brown has been told he wasn’t good enough to play. According to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic, Brown’s high school coach in Florida told him he was too small to ever play varsity. He ended up changing high schools, switching from South Dade to Homestead for his junior year. He played well enough to get a college scholarship, but only to Division II Mars Hill in North Carolina.
After only one year at Mars Hill, he transferred to Coffeyville Community College in Kansas because of academic issues. Even there, he was only allowed to practice with the team because they could only use 12 out-of-state players in games and Brown didn’t make the cut, according to ESPN.
Brown eventually landed at Pittsburg State, a Division II school in Kansas, where he finally burst onto the scene. He broke all of the school’s major receiving records and earned an invite to the NFL Combine. At the combine, he ran a 4.34-second 40-yard-dash — the third-fastest time at the event.
His coach at Pittsburg State, Tim Beck, raved about him (via the Wichita Eagle):
“(Brown) has great work ethic, and his teammates see that, that’s why they elected him as a captain again.He doesn’t take plays off. He jumps to be the first in line in every drill and wants to be out there, working, constantly. A lot of people can run really fast, but not a lot of people can run full speed and catch the ball and make decisions on the fly like he can.”
Now he’s torching people in the NFL:
You can’t teach size, but you can’t teach speed either. As long as Brown is one of the fastest, most explosive players in the league, it won’t matter how little he is.
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