What does is mean to be drafted into the NFL? For many football players, making it to the pros is a lifelong dream and something they work for the majority of their lives to achieve.
Once it finally happens, it’s a dream come true that takes some time to truly sink in.
“Oh my, it still honestly didn’t really hit me after I got off the phone,” Bengals fifth round pick and former Virginia defensive tackle Andrew Brown said in an exclusive interview with Cincy Jungle. “I was just like oh my God, I just got drafted. It happened so fast. I was just still trying to process and take it all in.”
Brown was with his dad, aunt, uncle and girlfriend while he anxiously watched the draft on television. When Day 3 got underway, Brown was getting to a point where he could hardly watch anymore.
“I had to put my phone down and I had just gotten into the shower. I was getting out and putting deodorant on when I saw my phone was ringing and it was a Cincinnati area code,” he remembered. “I quickly looked at the TV and saw Cincinnati was picking next.”
What was that moment like?
“You know when you have a little freak out, like looking for something and it’s not there?” Brown asked. “I was just like oh my God and that’s what it was like.”
Brown is from Chesapeake, Virginia and grew up a fan of the Panthers. His favorite player was Julius Peppers. Now that he’s been drafted to the Bengals, it’s all about playing in stripes, but he is excited to play Carolina in Week 3 of his rookie year.
“I grew up a Panthers fan, because my parents were from North Carolina,” Brown said. “I am so excited to play against them this year, you have no idea.”
Another thing Brown is excited for is to get on the field with his Bengals teammates.
“I have no clear image yet for how they want to use me, but I feel like I can be very versatile and wherever they put me I’ll definitely thrive,” he said. “I played a lot of spots in college, all over.”
Brown calls himself an aggressive player who thrives in an attack role. “I love to attack, that’s my thing,” he says. And the player who he’s looked to in an effort to embrace that mindset is Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald.
“Just the way he attacks, his get-off, his hand-usage and things like that,” Brown said of what excites him about Donald and how he believes he’s similar to the All Pro defensive lineman. “Before games, I will watch his highlights, no lie. And I just try to envision myself doing the things that he does.”
But for his rookie year, Brown doesn’t have goals similar to being an All Pro like Donald. He just wants to earn his teammates’ respect.
“For right now, I would say my goal is to earn the respect of my teammates,” Brown said. And he’s looking forward to taking down one popular NFL quarterback, too. “I’m most looking forward to sacking Ben Roethlisberger. No question. It’s also more for personal reasons; my uncle is a die-hard Steelers fan and to see his reaction will be priceless.”
Off-the-field, Brown is passionate about music and while he once said music “is definitely my dream job,” the new NFL defensive lineman is backing away from that statement.
“Honestly, playing in the NFL is my dream,” Brown said. “Music plays a lot of roles in my life. It keeps me calm, keeps me amped when I need it to. Music is a huge part of everyone’s life, really. When you’re in the shower, you just got your tunes going. It’s just amazing. I’m a hobbyist with music in my downtime but I don’t think I’ll be able to be producing music since I’ll be occupied with my main job. I’m going to have to put that to the side for now.”
One of the reasons music has played such a big role in Brown’s life is the hardship and loss he’s gone through. He’s created music inspired by his upbringing.
When he was growing up, Brown’s mother was battling lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and two rounds of breast cancer. She ended up succumbing to cancer when the Bengals rookie was just 10-years-old. His mother was 38.
“Ya know, it has impacted me in many ways but I must say it’s given me a reason why,” Brown said. “Why I do this.”
Brown’s mother afforded him the opportunity to play football and explore his passion for the sport. Now, he wants to keep striving for greatness in her honor.
“What keeps me going is my mom worked so hard to enable me to be able to play this game,” Brown said. “To make sure I had the proper tools like cleats, clothes and food in my stomach so I could maintain my play in the sport. And when she passed away it was only right for me to continue on and the legacy she left behind and the work she put in to make sure I could play. I couldn’t let it go away.”
Now, Brown has his chance with the Bengals and he’s going to do everything in his power to carve out a role for himself on the 53-man roster this fall.
“I’m just a humble young man just trying to make it happen for myself,” Brown said. “That’s pretty much all I can say.”