Before clearing Canadian customs to join the Alouettes in 2009, the 33-year old was a well-travelled Arena Football League gamebreaker, having suited up for four different American squads spanning three timezones. It was with the Columbus Destroyers in 2006 that the man nicknamed JB honed the playmaking skills that he is so lauded for these days, picking off opposing quarterbacks 11 times.
Fast forward eight years later and Brown is no less of a ball-hawk threat today than he was back then. A repeat Grey Cup Champion in 2009 and 2010, back surgery in 2011 robbed him of the opportunity to build off of two solid campaigns that saw him post a cumulative 9 interceptions and 102 tackles. He returned to the field in 2012 and has wound up a dependable fixture in the Alouettes’ secondary.
While this season hasn’t yet gone according to plan for the Alouettes, Brown’s own performance has risen to new heights in the form of a league-leading 4 fumble recoveries, a total that eclipses his combined output in that category (3) between 2009 and 2013.
Even though Brown has displayed increased proficiency at scooping the ball off the turf through the first half of this campaign, nothing has changed in his approach to the game, according to him.
“That’s just how I’ve always played and prepared. I’m not doing anything differently, it’s been the same thing,” said Brown after Tuesday’s practice at Stade Hébert.
True to his confident disposition, Brown’s hunger to be an even bigger presence every time he steps on the field has only intensified in line with his increased individual success.
“I just need to make more plays, that’s what I’m accustomed to and that’s what I live for and live by. It’s all about utilizing my playmaking ability.”
Indeed, Brown maintains that for he and his brothers in the trenches to grow together, they must first find a new gear within themselves.
“That’s all we strive for, to get better as a whole, and individually. If we get better individually, we get better as a group.”
Specifically, Brown stresses the importance of setting a bar, meeting it, then exceeding it.
“We just try to maintain that consistency and have the hunger and urgency to get better, so we don’t become stagnant. If we could hold a team to 3 points, why can’t we hold them to 0? We always set a standard for us that keeps us level-headed and wanting more.”
One definitely can’t mention setting a standard without acknowledging the influence assistant head-coach/defensive coordinator Noel Thorpe has on his squad.
“He knows how to dial it up and make us get after it. That’s the type of ball I play: aggressive, just how I like it. He’s done a good job of keeping us on track,” offered Brown.
If adversity brings out a man’s true character, then Brown’s never-say-die attitude is the sort of positive energy the Alouettes have worked hard towards conserving this season.
“Obviously along this road we’ve taken some bumps. What it comes down to is being resilient. I think our veterans and the veteran leadership has helped us out tremendously in trying to bounce back.”
Not the type to mince words, Brown believes that the road to success begins and ends with the players holding themselves accountable for what goes on on the field.
“We could tuck our tails if we want, but that’s not who we are. People blame the coaches for a lot, but it comes down to the players. They coach, we play. We have to make more plays. We have to help each other out. We have to fight for each other.”
Come game time, Brown tucks his good-natured persona away with his belongings in the locker room.
On the field, he’s all business, all the time.
“They’re coming to take your head off.”
The chaotic nature of playing a defensive position means that concentration is paramount. While some may regard defence as a a less exciting, utilitarian part of the game, the ability to stop opposing teams is just as important in deciding the end-result as the ability to put up 7 points during any given drive.
Ask about his toughest assignment so far this season and Brown, who lines up at boundary half, is quick to point out the flaw in that line of thinking:
“No one is easy to guard. They run routes, and we have to cover them. I don’t take anyone lightly or think ‘I gotta get up more for this game’, no. The moment you let your guard down is the moment you get beat bad.”