Sometimes all of the right things can be done, but the chips still don’t fall in the right place.
Kris Brown rewrote the record books and graduated from college third all-time in interceptions, “but it’s D-III,” he said.
The Sealy High School and University of Mary Hardin-Baylor alumnus recently got the opportunity to strap on the helmet and pads once again, this time against a majority of athletes who have spent time with a professional team in either minicamp or on a practice squad.
Others hailed from top-tier Division I programs but still haven’t fulfilled their pro dreams, and so all 170 hopeful professional football players converged in Austin for a four-team tournament over the previous two weeks. The Spring League was only in its second season of operation but provided NFL teams another chance to scout players who could potentially make a roster.
On top of that, the reviving XFL announced a partnership with The Spring League as well and tested out some rules that could potentially be reintroduced with the rest of the league in 2020. Teams in the Canadian Football League also had some representatives at the games but most everyone else got a copy of the film to dissect on their own time, possibly providing another route for a player to delve into.
Brown was invited to some workouts for CFL teams and mentioned he recognized some familiar faces from those workouts coming together in Austin. He added that although there have been plenty of those opportunities, there hasn’t been an opportunity like the one in front of him where he could get film of his play against top-echelon players.
“This was definitely something I needed,” Brown said. “I can go to as many workouts as I want but I needed the film against good guys.”
That compilation of clips will speak for itself. Although he was not able to record an interception, he was able to showcase one of his other talents by picking balls out of the air. He relayed compliments from coaches and teammates regarding Brown as one of the best tackling defensive backs in the camp, emphasized by a group of tackles recorded in a wide-open area of the field.
“I had four nice open-field hits and we were in a meeting after breaking down the film and the coaches were saying, ‘That’s what the scouts want to see,’” Brown said. “Then another coach brought up a study that was done back in the day to figure out the hardest thing to do in sports; whether it was making a birdie in golf, hitting a home run in baseball or making an open-field tackle and the open-field tackle was the hardest play in all sports.”
Out of the 170 total players, 40 of them were defensive backs and the team Brown was placed on, the Austin Generals (the only team with an actual name as opposed to Team East or West), housed six cornerbacks on their roster.
However, 10 minutes into practice the very first day, one corner from the Naval Academy ruptured his Achilles tendon. Not long after, another corner whom Brown had known from previous CFL workouts had to tend to a family emergency and also left camp.
With only four corners remaining on the roster, Brown’s reps increased tremendously and his film highlights were accordingly fattened up a bit. On top of that, he was also the defensive back responsible for coming onto the field for more pass-specific defenses and added more film time in those situations as well.
“I was the corner coming in for nickel and dime packages because the coaches were looking for someone to step up and I thought, ‘I can’t take this opportunity for granted,’” Brown said. “So I got a lot of extra reps and I probably got a little over 20 more snaps because of those packages.”
Not only were the games filmed (and also broadcasted on Bleacher Report Live), but so too were the practices and that’s where some more impressive feats of athleticism came for No. 32 in red. In 1-on-1 drills, All-American wide receives from USC and Purdue were calling out Brown because they knew the competitor he is would only bring out a heightened spark in them as well.
None of the receivers caught the ball.
That had been the biggest criticism of Brown’s film reel so far that despite the school records not only on the field (third-most interceptions all-time, second in interceptions returned for a touchdown) but in the weight room as well, it was in in the Division III realm of athletics. Even with National Champion and All-American tied to his name he still hadn’t found his way in the door.
Two weeks prior to attending The Spring League, Brown settled in with an agent, Michael Hayes of NA3 Sports, whose connections could lead to something but it will be Brown’s film that drives that conversation, all coming from this new opportunity that he was sure not to squander.
He also took the chance to soak in as much knowledge as he could from his coaches in Kevin Smith and Patrick Peterson and both of those names likely sound familiar.
Smith won a pair of state championships with the West Orange-Stark Mustangs prior to graduating as Texas A&M’s leading interceptor before becoming a Dallas Cowboy in 1992.
Peterson is not the Arizona Cardinals’ cornerback but his father who was the one who coached him to the pros and has returned to develop more talent in defensive backfields.
Brown added their lessons were not forced upon the players as certainly some things work for some guys and not for others but everyone was accepted to this league for the same reason.
“I taught my son how to do it and I’ll show you not just what the pros do, but what the best pros do,” Brown recounted Peterson telling the group.
Brown’s now got a couple of opportunities to turn those lessons into reality and join the best in playing football professionally with two more CFL workouts coming up April 28 and May 4 with those teams in the midst of a popular signing period. He added the NFL teams likely won’t start signing people until after this week’s draft and the XFL has yet to set dates for any sort of draft.
Despite sharing a locker room full of guys sporting NFL colors from minicamp workouts, Brown stood out and made his name, and new number, known after making plays against some of the best.
“I know this is going to help,” he said of the entire experience. “I got better against the cream of the crop and got film against those quality opponents.”