Back Keenen Brown’s Unique Path to the NFL

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Keenen Brown’s Unique Path to the NFL

By Jim Johnson
SouthernPigskin.com
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From a highly touted receiver out of high school, to a an underutilized tight end at Oklahoma State, to one of the best offensive weapons in the country at Texas State, Brown’s route has been a circuitous one.

The path to the NFL has not been a straight line from Point A to Point B for Keenen Brown. From a highly touted receiver out of high school, to a an underutilized tight end at Oklahoma State, to one of the best offensive weapons in the country at Texas State, Brown’s route has been a circuitous one.

Prior to this season, Brown himself wasn’t even sure that he would have a professional future.

“I always wanted to go, but at Oklahoma State I only had six catches so it was like I didn't have a big chance to go. Texas State told me I could be a primary target guy. It was always a dream growing up. I didn't ever stop dreaming it just it didn't look as good then as it does now,” he explained.

Still, enticing as the opportunity was, it did not come without change.

Brown recalled, “Coming in from Oklahoma State to Texas State it was a big difference from a spread offense to more of a pro style. I had to learn more of the formations and become a real true tight end and focus on being a tight end, where at Oklahoma State I was like a tight end/fullback/wide receiver. At Texas State it was mainly tight end and wide receiver I had to focus on. The coaching staff really helped me adjust to it pretty well.”

He came out of high school as a four star wide receiver in the class of 2014, ultimately choosing the Cowboys amidst 20 total FBS offers, including the likes of Florida, LSU, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Oregon, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, among others.

One of the top 50 wideouts in that class, and the 35th overall prospect from the state of Texas, coming out of Alief Taylor in Houston, Brown boasted a verified 4.5 40-yard dash and 38-inch vertical. Coupled with plus ball skills and a particular efficacy working the middle of the field due to his advanced usage of that big body and natural strength, it was easy to see why he was so sought after as a possession receiver.

“I wanted to play wide receiver all my life, I just gained weight too fast and then they made the switch,” he laughed. “I have been able to maintain (my athleticism), it's just I have to take it day by day because my body is just different from when I was 208. Now I’m 245, so it's just extra weight. You have to learn the technique and how to put your body in the right position to run as fast as you can and jump as high as you can.”

It seems so obvious now, in hindsight, that Brown could become what he has. Gifted with once-in-a-generation physical attributes for a tight end, all he needed was a little polish. Texas State saw that when few else did.

“Really at the beginning of the season they just had to look at me and figure out if I was good enough to be the focal point of the offense.” He continued, “So I just had to prove myself everyday, do all the extra liftings, and show my team that I was capable of carrying us.When the time came and my number was called upon I was always there to answer. I was ready to do whatever it takes to win. They put me at a bunch of positions like running back and wide reciever and I played wildcat. So, whatever I needed to do and my team needed, I was there for them.”

According to Pro Football Focus, Brown graded out as the top overall tight end in the country, thanks in large part to his position-leading 24 forced missed tackles and 427 yards after the catch.

On that open field ability that sets him apart, Brown stated, “When I get the ball in my hands, I don't want to get tackled. I don't like getting tackled at all so I try to do whatever it takes to score like every play, take every play to the house and that's my mentality. As a tight end group that was our mentality, lead the tight ends in the nation with the most yards after the catch, so we were the chain gang. We wanted to make sure nobody could bring us down, and have that mindset every game.”

As the NFL offenses finally begin to catch up to what the best college play callers have been doing for a decade, players like Brown have never been at more of a premium.

“I feel like I can fit right in with the NFL,” Brown summated. “Most of the teams are going more towards the collegiate style, like fast and spread out. That's perfect for my game, because I can flex out or come in and block and you don't have to take me off the field to substitute another guy than can run block.”

Yet, even with all that talent and production, Brown is still just a guy that is willing to do whatever it takes to help his team.

“I will play any position on the field. I’ll play tight end, wideout, I'll get on special teams -- I would just do whatever it takes to win. I’m going to come in ready to learn.”

Playmakers with Keenen Brown’s athletic profile don’t come along that often at the tight end position. As versatile as he is dynamic, there’s not a team in the NFL that couldn’t benefit from Brown’s talents in some capacity.

Jim Johnson - Editor of Southern Pigskin, Producer of "Three & Out", and host of "Explosive Recruiting" on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. E-mail: jim@espncoastal.com Twitter: @JimJohnsonSP