No player better encapsulated the Patriot Way than former New England Patriots wide receiver Troy Brown. Throughout his Patriots tenure, Brown did whatever the team needed him to do. Whether it was wide receiver, punt returner, or even cornerback, the three-time Super Bowl champion was the perfect Patriot during his 15 years with the team. With 80 days until New England kicks off the 2019 season, there’s no better time to pay tribute to one of the most important Patriots in franchise history.
81 Days to Kickoff: Randy Moss
Troy Brown: 80 Days to Kickoff
Brown was born and raised in the small town of Blackville, South Carolina. Despite his later success, Brown was discouraged from playing football due to his undersized 5’-6”, 135-pound frame. As would become a trend in Brown’s career, he overcame the said obstacle, as he played and lettered on his high school football team.
Brown showed incredible athletic ability from a young age. In addition to his success in football, Brown was also a part of his high school track and field team. Brown also lettered while running for Blackville-Hilda High School, his alma mater.
Following his high school career, Brown moved on to Marshall University, famously home to former Patriots receivers Randy Moss and Aaron Dobson. While in college, Brown established himself as one of the most dangerous returners in all of college football while also serving as Marshall’s top receiver.
Brown’s best season as a returner likely came in 1991, when he led all of Division I-AA football in both kickoff and punt return average. During that same season, Brown and quarterback Todd Donnan connected for a 99-yard touchdown reception. Brown truly did it all, as he showed great versatility even before reaching the pros.
Early Patriots Tenure: 1993 – 1999
Despite his collegiate accomplishments, Brown was viewed as too small to succeed in the National Football League. Because of this, Brown had to wait until the eighth round of the 1993 Draft before the Patriots called his name.
While he would go on to be a Patriot legend, it took Brown a few years before establishing himself on the roster. In fact, the Marshall product didn’t even make the initial 53-man roster. However, after spending time on and off of the Patriots active roster, Brown eventually made his home in New England.
After catching just two passes in his first two years in the league, Brown’s production began to increase. Brown recorded 14 receptions for 159 yards in 1995 and recorded anywhere from 21-41 receptions in each of the new four seasons. His early breakout season in 1997, when he recorded 41 receptions for 607 yards and six touchdowns.
During his early years, Brown was also the on-again, off-again kick and punt returner. While he didn’t record a touchdown in his early years, Brown still managed to be a solid returner. In all, Brown was a solid, if unspectacular player during his early years. However, that soon changed when the Patriots hired a new coach in 2000.
Establishing a Legend: 2000-2001
With new head coach Bill Belichick in town, Troy Brown finally earned the chance to start. While the 2000 season as a whole was underwhelming, Brown had the best season of his young career. Playing in all 16 games, Brown recorded 83 receptions for 944 yards and four touchdowns. While the yards and receptions were career highs, 2000 was but a primer for what Brown would do in 2001.
With Drew Bledsoe sidelined for the majority of 2001, then-second-year quarterback Tom Brady needed a reliable weapon in the passing game, and Brown answered the call. Serving as Brady’s go-to guy, Brown finished the 2001 season with 101 receptions for 1,199 yards and five touchdowns. To truly show how impressive Brown’s season was, consider that David Patten was second on the team with 51 receptions for 749 yards and four touchdowns.
As would become a trend, Brown saved his best moments for last. Brown made several crucial plays during that playoff run, and New England probably doesn’t win the Super Bowl without him. In the AFC Championship Game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Brown recorded two separate special teams touchdowns. The do-everything receiver recorded the game’s first points on a punt return touchdown, and also recovered a blocked field goal, which he then lateralled to Antwan Harris for the touchdown.
Of course, Brown made one of the most important plays in all of Super Bowl XXXVI. Faced with a 17-17 tie and just 1:21 left on the clock, Brady, Brown, and the Patriots offense took the field. After Brady hit J.R. Redmond on three consecutive passes, the quarterback turned to his most reliable option. Brady hit Brown over the middle for a gain of 23, setting the Patriots up at the Rams 36. Two plays later, the Patriots won the Super Bowl.
The Do-Everything Star: 2002-2007
While Troy Brown never reached the statistic success he did in 2001, he was still a crucial piece in the next two Patriots championships. Over the next three seasons, Brown recorded 154 receptions for 1,546 yards and eight touchdowns. Perhaps his most impressive work from 2002-2004 came during the 2004 campaign.
While Brown only recorded 17 receptions for 184 yards and a touchdown, Brown’s impact went far beyond the offense. In a year where defensive backs were dropping like flies, the Patriots turned to Brown to play as the emergency cornerback. Brown answered the call and played amazingly well considering the circumstances. He recorded three interceptions on defense, most notably picking off his former quarterback, Drew Bledsoe.
Brown took discount deals throughout his later Patriot years in order to remain with the team. Following the departure of David Givens, Deion Branch, and David Patten from 2005-2006, Brown was the lone holdover at receiver on the 2006 Patriots. While he was at the advanced age of 36, Brown still managed to be arguably the most reliable receiver on the squad. Playing in all 16 games, Brown recorded 43 receptions for 384 yards and four touchdowns.
Most notably, Brown kept the 2006 season alive one week longer than it had any right to go. Facing the San Diego Chargers in the AFC Divisional Round, Tom Brady threw an interception with just five minutes left in the game. This looked to all-but end the game, but Brown’s heroics kept the Patriots alive. Brown tackled Marlon McCree, stripping the ball and recovering the fumble. The Patriots went on to win that game, 24-21.
Brown’s final year came in the magical 16-0 2007 season, although Brown only saw one game. Battling through injuries for the majority of the season, Brown didn’t record a single catch during that record-setting season. Brown was active for just one game that year, recording six punt returns for 55 yards.
Life After Football
Despite not playing a snap in over a decade, Brown remains a key part of the New England landscape. Currently employed with NBC Sports Boston, Brown is one of the primary football analysts for the local network.
Troy Brown finished his 15-year career with 557 receptions (a team record when he retired), 6,366 yards, and 31 touchdowns. In the return game, Brown recorded 252 punt returns for 2,625 yards and three touchdowns. As a cornerback, Brown recorded three interceptions and 17 tackles. There really never was a player quite as capable of doing it all like Brown. The Patriots honored Brown’s career accomplishments in June of 2012, electing him into the team Hall of Fame.
81 Days to Kickoff: Randy Moss
Embed from Getty Images