A prodigy out of Penn State, Brown took the country by storm thanks to his uncanny ability to give offenses fits. This never translated to the NFL. To this day, he serves as a cautionary tale for teams and players alike.
Courtney Brown’s college career
Brown attended Penn State from 1996 to 2000, details Sports-Reference. With star teammates like LaVar Arrington and Brandon Short, he often flew under the radar during his early career with the team. Coach Joe Paterno saw his potential, however. By 1999, he was an All-American lineman with the promise to revolutionize an NFL offense.
While it isn’t always the best decision to draft a defensive player first overall, some saw it as a no-brainer. Brown finished his college career with 33 sacks and 70 tackles for a loss. Teams chomped at the bits over the chance to bring in a player who could keep opposing quarterbacks at bay and elevate their defenses.
Brown was quick like an offensive player, could dunk like a basketball star, and had the bulk of a lineman. Cleveland hoped to bring things in the right direction by drafting him as the first pick. He was the first lineman to selected first in the history of the NFL Draft.
Welcome to the NFL
Initially, he showed that some of the hype was valid. Brown recorded 61 solo tackles and eight assisted ones during his rookie season. His size, combined with his speed, made him an ideal lineman. While questions remained about drafting a lineman first, Brown showed that he could become a valuable contributor to a defense.
After injuries shortened his 2001 season, however, he was never the same. Unlike other busts, his numbers were good when he was healthy. His problem was that he could not stay healthy long enough to have a meaningful impact on the game. His role on the Browns grew smaller with each ensuing injury, and in 2005 he was sent to a new team in Denver.
While Denver had a good year, Brown was not a vital part of their offense. That 2005 season was the last of his career.
Where is Brown now?
Long retired, Brown isn’t a tragic story off the field in the way that Leaf and other busts are. He made the best out of his career and decided not to let it define him. Deeply religious, Brown now works as a missionary in the Dominican Republic, reports The Sportster.
Despite his reputation as a bust, Brown made just under $30 million throughout his career, reports Spotrac. He appears to be putting that money to good use 15 years later. At the end of his career, Brown acknowledged that his status as a bust affected him and his ability to focus on the game he loved.
“It’s the nature of the game,” he told The Morning Call. “All I can do as far as my attitude is stay focused and do what I can to help the team win.”
Brown never got to shine in Denver after that interview, but it showed a level of awareness that helped him thrive. Brown doesn’t do too much publicity work these guys, devoting his time to his ministry. His story goes to show fans that just because someone doesn’t work out as an NFL player, it doesn’t need to define him. Brown had his opportunity and fumbled. However, his true calling may have opened because of this.