By Bryan Dietzler
You know, I am a Chicago Bears fan, but I am also a fan of the National Football League. I like the Bears players a lot, don’t get me wrong, and some of them are my favorites at their respective positions. But I have other favorite players, current players, on other teams.
For example, my favorite current quarterback is Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints. My favorite safety, currently, is Eric Berry of the Kansas City Chiefs and my favorite current wide receiver is Pittsburgh Steeler’s starter, Antonio Brown.
Brown has been quite a character in the league since he came into it. He is the most productive wide receivers in the NFL over the last few seasons and has helped the Steelers passing game excel. But where did Brown come from? What has made him such a huge success in the NFL?
The following is a brief look at the life and career of Antonio Brown. We will see where he came from, where he has been and where he is going. We will also take a look at some of the things he had made a name for himself for during his career in the NFL. So sit back and prepare to learn more about this dynamic all-star player.
Brown was born on July 10th, 1988. His father is somewhat famous. Eddie Brown was a football player who spent his time in the Arena League as an offensive player. In fact, the elder Brown was named the best player in Area Football League history. He is also a member of that league’s hall of fame.
The younger Brown spent his younger years in Liberty City area of Miami, Florida. His life growing up was tough. He grew up in a rough neighborhood and had to fend for himself often. Brown’s famous father didn’t spend a lot of time with him when he was a teenager. He lived with his mother until she got married again. Brown was kicked out of his home for an unspecified reason.
Brown found himself without a home for several months before graduating high school. He has talked about his story, and it can be found online.
When it came to playing in high school, Brown was a star. He played his high school ball at Miami Norland High School in Miami. Brown played football and track. In football, he played three positions including quarterback, wide receiver and running back. He also returned punts.
Some of the honors that he received while he was in high school include being named the North Athlete of the Year at the Miami-Dade Grid Iron Classic (2005). He was also a two-time Class 6A all-state player. His track career was pretty prolific as he was part of a state title relay team and qualified twice in the 100-meter dash.
Brown struggled with academic issues in high school and was denied admission to Florida State University as a result. He tried to get into Alcorn State (where Steve McNair played) but decided to enroll at North Carolina Prep.
While he was there, Brown played quarterback and participated in five games. He threw 11 touchdowns and ran for 13 in that span. His play garnered him notice from Florida International University.
Before he could play a game at FIU, he was kicked out for a fighting with security officials at the school. He tried to get other schools to have some interest in him but had trouble doing that.
But, he managed to find his way to Central Michigan. Their coach, Butch Jones, had expressed some interest in Brown while he was at West Virginia. Jones decided to give Brown a shot.
Brown was a walk-on at Central Michigan during his freshman season and moved from quarterback to wide receiver. After seeing how he performed and how hard he worked, the school offered him a full scholarship. The transition to a new life in college was tough on Brown at first, but he got better as his freshman season moved on. During that season, he played in 14 games as was named the Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year. Also, he was named an All-Conference kick and punt return specialist.
During his sophomore season in 2008, Brown started in every game. For the year, he had almost 1000 yards receiving (999) to go along with his 93 catches and seven touchdowns.
His junior season was his most productive and also his last at Central Michigan. He closed out the 2009 campaign with 110 catches for 1198 yards and nine touchdowns.
Brown’s totals, for his career at Central Michigan, include 305 receptions for 3199 yards and 22 touchdowns. His reception total was a school record.
In early January of 2010, Brown decided that he was going to skip his senior season and enter the 2010 NFL Draft. It was thought, by experts, that he would be a fifth or sixth round pick. That’s not very high by NFL standards.
Brown participated in the NFL’s scouting combine and had some good drills but wasn’t happy with some of his timed events. He worked hard to get those times down and had some success after the combine. Some of the more noticeable measurables that he had included a 4.48/40, a broad jump of eight feet nine inches and a vertical leap of thirty-three and a half inches.
He was taken right about where experts figured he would go, the sixth round at 195th overall. He ended up with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
After signing a contract in June of 2010, Brown was ready to play professional football. His first NFL contract was a three-year deal worth $1.28 million. His signing bonus was just $73,075.
The Steelers had a bevy of wide receivers heading into the 2010 season and Brown may have been the odd man out. But, he managed to land as the fifth wide receiver heading into the season earning a spot on the roster. At least he had gotten his foot in the door.
Brown got into the Steeler’s game against the Tennessee Titans that season and was used as a return specialist taking back two kicks and a punt. He managed to score a touchdown on the first play of the game on an 89-yard reverse. A few weeks later, he had his first reception.
The numbers he put up during the 2010 season weren’t strong. He had just 16 catches for 167 yards. But there was much more to come.
Pittsburg made the playoffs that year, and Brown played in his first playoff game. In that game, he caught a 58-yard pass to help put the Steelers in a position to get the game-winning touchdown. He had another big catch during the Steelers game against the New York Jets. But in the Steeler’s Super Bowl loss to the Green Bay Packers, he had just one reception for one yard.
In training camp, the next summer, Brown made an effort to establish himself as the Steeler’s third wide receiver. He managed to win that job along with being named the primary punt and kick return specialist for the season.
In an October game against the New England Patriots, Brown caught his first touchdown pass on a seven-yard reception. He earned the first 100-yard receiving game in his NFL career the following week against the Baltimore Ravens (109 yards). Brown took a punt back for a 60-yard touchdown against the Bengals in early December. For that, he earned AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors.
For the 2011 season, Brown caught 69 passes for 1,108 yards and two touchdowns. He was the first player in league history to have 1,000 yards receiving and 1,000 yards in returns. Brown was honored with a trip to the Pro Bowl as a punt return specialist that season.
Thanks to his outstanding play, the Steelers gave Brown a five-year $42.5 million extension. He received an $8.5 million signing bonus too.
Brown went into the 2012 season as one of the top two starting receivers on the team. While he was productive that year his play on the field drew some attention from league officials. He was given a $10,000 fine for running backward at the end of a punt return (approximately 20 yards). It would not be the only time the NFL went after Brown’s wallet for something he did.
An ankle injury kept Brown from playing in three games that season, but he came back strong. He was productive towards the close of the year and came out of the 2012 campaign with 66 catches for 787 yards and five touchdowns. That coming in 13 games.
To begin the 2013 season, Brown was again one of two starters at wide receiver. He had a prolific year and broke the single season team record for receiving yards with 1398 total yards. He was also just the second player in team history to catch at least 100 passes in a single season. Brown was one of three players to catch at least five passes in every game of an NFL season. Another related record he earned was that he became the only receiver in league history to catch at least five passes and have fifty yards of receiving in every game of an NFL season.
Brown concluded the 2013 season with 110 catches for 1,499 yards and eight scores. He was named to the Pro Bowl as a wide receiver and punt return specialist and given All-Pro honors for the first time.
The 2014 season started off rough for Brown. He was criticized for jumping over Cleveland Brown’s punter Spencer Lanning kicking him in the facemask. The league took notice and fined him $8,200 for the incident. Brown did apologize.
In a game against the Houston Texans, Brown tossed a three-yard touchdown pass giving him the first touchdown pass of his career. He had some big games that year and ended it with 129 catches for 1,698 yards and thirteen touchdowns. He was not only the team leader in all those categories but led the NFL in catches and yards. The numbers that Brown put up that season were new Steeler’s team records.
Brown’s start to the 2015 season was big. He put up some strong numbers and was the top receiver through the fourth week of the season. The biggest game of his career came in early November as Brown hauled in 17 passes for 284 yards against the Oakland Raiders.
The NFL fine machine caught up with Brown once again in December of 2015. In a game against the Indianapolis Colts, Brown scored on a punt return and jumped onto a goalpost. He got penalized by the officials and an $11,576 fine from the league.
His totals for 2015 included 136 catches for 1,834 yards and ten touchdowns. His marks in catches and yards were new team records. Brown’s 136 receptions, combined with those from the previous season, were an NFL record and he also eclipsed the mark for most receptions in a three-year span. He was setting records and had proven himself to be one of the top receivers in the NFL.
The playoffs were very rough for Antonio. He suffered a concussion in the Steeler’s wild card game against the Cincinnati Bengals on a big hit by linebacker Vontaze Burfict. He could not play in their next game, a loss to the Denver Broncos.
Another Pro Bowl honor was bestowed upon Brown, and he was named a first-team All-Pro wide receiver again.
The 2016 season opened with another fine, by the NFL, against Brown. This time Brown wore different color cleats than is allowed by the NFL, so he was handed a $15,191 fine. Part of that fine was also for him twerking in the end zone. It didn’t end there. Brown did his “move” again in Week Four and was fined $24,309.
Brown had his best game of the year against the Dallas Cowboys as he caught 14 passes for 154 yards and a touchdown. His totals for 2016 were 106 catches for 1,284 yards and 12 touchdowns. He would earn yet another trip to the Pro Bowl and make the All-Pro team again.
In the playoffs, Brown had a nice game against the Miami Dolphins in the wildcard round. He had two touchdowns, one 62 yards and the other 50 yards which helped the Steelers win.
Following their victory against the Kansas City Chiefs in the playoffs, Brown put the locker room celebration on Facebook live. That was a violation of NFL rules and his teammate’s request not to make celebrations public. It turns out that Facebook paid him to do what he did. He was disciplined by the team.
Earlier this year, Brown and the Steelers agreed to a new five-year contract. The contract is valued at $68 million with $19 million guaranteed. He is now the highest paid wide receiver in the league.
Brown has done some interesting things in his off the field time. His four kids keep him very busy. He was also part of the popular television Dancing with the Stars last year. Brown managed to earn the fourth place spot on the show.
He has ended up as one of the best wide receivers in the history of the NFL. Although he still has a ways to go, if he keeps up his current pace, he could end up in the Hall of Fame. He has been a great addition to one of the NFL’s greatest teams. Sure, his antics on the field draw a lot of negative attention, but off of it, he’s a pretty good guy.
Brown is one of the most dynamic players and had a lightning rod of a personality. Truly a good guy in the NFL.