When Mike Brown starting playing competitive football in 2016, the only motivation behind it was getting to share the experience with his brothers. That’s all he wanted. He never envisioned it would lead to playing at the Division I level, let alone in the NFL.
Five years later, Brown is in Louisiana wearing New Orleans Saints issued gear, but the reason he started in the first place is still at the forefront.
“When I started back then, I just wanted to play the sport to have fun. I didn’t look ahead. I did my best and tried my best every time I was out there. I just have been doing the same thing since and look where it got me,” Brown said. “I am amazed I’ve got this far. I really am. It’s crazy.”
The former Mountaineer offensive lineman watched the 2021 NFL Draft at an Airbnb in Utah with his immediate family, including his wife and daughter. He didn’t want a big celebration. No matter the outcome, he just wanted to share that moment with the people who helped him get to where he is. No expectations. No pressure. Just hope that his work ethic and dedication that got him this far wouldn’t go unnoticed.
“I’ve always had the mindset that I am going be unseen like I always have. I started in 2016, no one knew about me and I blew up there (at Eastern Arizona Community College). Then came to West Virginia where really no one knew about me and blew up there. So now, I’m just going to do the same thing where I go,” Brown said of his mindset entering the final day of the draft. “All I knew was whoever decided to take a chance on me wouldn’t regret it. So, whenever I got the call from the Saints, it was the biggest celebration for my family emotionally.”
It seemed every relative Brown had was calling and texting, all sharing the same emotion and reaction to him signing as an undrafted free agent — happiness that a member of their family, a family that has faced so much adversity, had made it.
“I was emotional, too. I didn’t think a guy that has only played for so long would make it this far. Even to this day, I’ve impressed a lot of people here, too,” Brown said. “That’s something I’m good at. Not to be too boastful, but a lot of these guys are shocked. They are shocked at how I move, how I go, how I work and they like it already.”
Brown is the type of person that leaves a lasting impression. There’s just something about his passion and energy, no matter the situation or circumstance, that leaves its mark. And that’s exactly what it did in the presence of NFL scouts during WVU’s pro day. Normally, it’s Brown’s personality that catches attention first. In this case, it was his body and how it moved on the field that was turning heads.
“They thought I was just some huge, big guy then when they watched the film they were like ‘oh wait he’s got pretty good feet’ and that’s what impressed them,” Brown said of the feedback he received.
His strength and athleticism were the foundation. The potential in those two areas piqued the interest of the professionals. Those types of things they can continue to build on and develop in Louisiana and Brown is using the mindset he learned at West Virginia to power him through that process.
“Working. That’s one thing I loved about West Virginia, even though it brought a lot of pain to me mentally and physically, you just keep going. What I mean by work is if you know what to do, don’t pay attention to how you feel. Push through. That’s something I learned at WVU and I’ve been carrying that with me to this day,” Brown said.
It’s carried it him through three seasons in Gold and Blue and he hopes it will continue to carry him even longer at the next level. Brown completed the Saints rookie minicamp last week and has already met quarterback Jameis Winston and the starting offensive line. There are just two more things he is looking forward to during this experience — meeting running Alvin Kamara and finding his role on the team.
“I just want to play football. That’s why I am here and I am going to do everything I can to get that opportunity. If I have to go to the practice squad, I’ll do that. Then there’s making it to the 53-man roster,” Brown said. “But right now, I’m not worried about it because things are going pretty good for me. That’s my mindset, worrying about now and the present because tomorrow will take care of itself if you’re doing it right.”
Well, if we are being honest, there is one other thing he is looking forward to, and it’s something the other Mountaineers that joined Brown in the 2021 draft class have already accomplished.
“They all got pictures already! I want a picture, too. I want to show the people what I am working with,” Brown said, tapping the Saints logo on his shirt.