The end of a Patriot era came in September of 2008. It was when Wide Receiver, Defensive Back, Punt Returner and all around Patriot Troy Brown announced his retirement. For one and a half decades he was the guy wearing number 80. He was an OG TB. And the face of a franchise for a fan base that was learning how to root for champions. Fast forward to the summer of 2019 and he's back with the team and helping the coaching staff mold a group of wide receivers to catch passes from Tom Brady. If the group takes his teachings to heart, then they could be standing on the podium after the last game of the season with confetti in their hair.
Belichick has a knack for uncovering gems. He sees what you can do best and centers your usage around that in order for you to be in the best position to succeed. Given the fluid nature of NFL free agency in today's game it can be difficult to mold the culture of a team. With so much turnover on the rosters how do you create that esprit de corp that can be the difference in the playoffs? Bill Belichick has turned towards the Patriots alumni in recent years. More than just showing up and giving motivational speeches, they are active participants on the practice field. This year the team saw James Harrison, Kevin Faulk, and Troy Brown in minicamps and OTAs. It also signaled the return of Jerod Mayo as linebackers coach and possible defensive play caller. Their teachings could be crucial for the new faces.
Lessons to Learn
Since the news is buzzing with the wide receivers on the team and who makes it, who is going to emerge as a favorite target? Can we finally have a star rookie? Troy Brown can groom these players, young and old, in many things that will help them navigate the NFL landscape. What teachings can they take away? Below are just some of the wisdom that that the pass catchers should try and absorb from the Patriots Hall of Famer.
Troy Brown entered the league in 1993, drafted in the eighth round. That would make him an undrafted free agent in today’s landscape. The coaching staff never promised him anything more than a hard look. The end of his first training camp saw his dream cut short. He stayed ready and he stayed hungry. When his phone rang in October he was ready and rejoined the team. That was the first of his fifteen seasons in the league. Primarily a punt and kick returner in the early years, he did not start a game on offense until 1997. He did not have over 25 catches on offense until that year either. But he hung on and by 2001 he was a vital part of the offense.
Was he a natural star? Absolutely not. He had to work and work hard. A fan favorite during the tumultuous years from laughing stock through the Parcell’s era and into the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady Dynasty. He was rewarded and lauded numerous times by the coaches, owners and fans. In 2012 Brown saw his induction into the Patriots Hall of Fame.
"I think if you look where it started from, and how it started, a lot of people would be surprised that I made it 15 years with this team and this organization. I just enjoyed working hard, grinding things out, sweating, going through the pain of weeks of hard labor. That's the way I was brought up."Quote from ESPN article 2012
One of the most remembered anecdotes of Troy Brown is when, during the 2004 season, the defense became decimated by injuries. Brown selflessly volunteered to be an additional member of the backfield. The results of the experiment? The team went 14-2 and added a Lombardi to the trophy case. Individually, Troy Brown notched three interceptions and performed well. He was unlikely to reach several incentives in his contract. Still, he dove in and did the best that he could do where the team needed him the most. The ultimate vindication of this strategy was seen when they had that trophy.
Do you play inside or outside? Start one week and play just four snaps the next? Are you needed on special teams or even on defense? They should remember that it is the attitude that they approach it that will be remembered, not whether they are perfect or looked good at it.
"Troy was a great leader. Worked as hard as anybody, unselfishly, always did what we asked him to do from a team standpoint whether it was block, catch passes, return kicks, cover kicks, cover receivers. He truly was a good player in all three phases of the game, an outstanding player offensively and in the kicking game.Bill Belichick from ESPN article 2012
Keep your eye on the prize.
When you have finished packing up your locker and the season is over. As you head out for home or vacation what will you remember? Is it whether you caught 100 passes or ninety of them? Did you have 400 yards or 450? Or could it be if you become known as champions with a special group of guys? Troy Brown could have selfishly said he would rather stay on offense. They may not have won the Super Bowl and he could have hit his incentives. Then the off-season came and the Patriots cut him anyways due to cap consideration. Troy Brown could have decided to be upset, to be angry and to go elsewhere. Instead he resisted the urge to sign elsewhere and returned.
The Big Picture is tough to see. Its harder to see in the fast-paced world of the NFL. Troy Brown decided that he was where he belonged and wanted to stay there no matter what. It was difficult at times, but rewarding. Patriots Hall of Fame, multiple Super Bowl Champion, and now maybe future coach. As many fans will say “He should never have to buy a drink in New England.” That is what the group of guys fighting for a roster shot should remember. Each of them can have just as big of an impact as Troy Brown did if they take his teachings to heart.
"Always did it for the good of the team and he was a big reason why we won a lot of games. You can never really replace a guy like that. He's just special."Bill Belichick from ESPN article 2012
Thank you for reading this article written by Andrew Lykins. You can find more of his work at Believeinbostonsports.com . You can find where his mind reside on twitter @alykins32.