by Dan Snapp
Troy Brown says he’s a Patriot for life. We need to hold him to that. Hear that, Troy? You can’t leave.
“If you love the game so much,” his son Sir’mon tearfully asked during the retirement press conference, “Why are you retiring?”
Excellent question, and the answer is he’s not. We won’t let him.
Consider this: The franchise’s unprecedented success ran concurrent with Brown’s career; they made five Super Bowls with him as a member of the team, and lost the two he was inactive. Coincidence?
He was a tremendous player, but perhaps it’s more than that. Maybe he was our good luck charm all along. Maybe it’s just good karma to have such a man on our sidelines. As the saying went, good things happen when Troy Brown touches the ball.
Bill Belichick likes to say he treats all players equally, but I think Troy should be the exception. Surely the man who allowed Vinny Testaverde to keep his yearly touchdown streak going and who let Doug Flutie try the first drop kick in decades, surely he could find a way to sneak Brown onto the squad come playoffs each year. Put him back at gunner. Have him hold for kicks. Teach him to punt. Hell, he’s done everything else in his career.
Of course it’s only a pipe dream, thinking someday we could peel him off the BINGO circuit to come on all Nate Scarboro-like into a playoff game. We can be sure that Brown, unlike say Brett Favre, has put a lot of thought into this decision. Knowing the man he is, there’s no doubting the permanence of it.
The expression “We’ll never see another like him” is a tired, hackney phrase, but truly, we’ll never see another like him.
There may never have been a Patriot who more defied categorization. He was an eighth-round pick who played 15 years; a return specialist, then a starting wide receiver in his eighth year; then a star in his ninth year, and then a nickelback in his 12th.
His key plays in crucial situations, from the on-his-back catch against the Giants in ’96 to stripping the Chargers’ Marlon McCree to keep the Pats alive two years ago, have enhanced his iconic status.
But what really made Brown resonate with fans was his Horatio Alger-like rise to prominence. He was hard-working, humble, self-effacing and he waited patiently for his turn to come.
That chance came in the spring of 2000, when the Patriots had to choose whom to keep between free agent receivers Brown and Shawn Jefferson, a starter the previous four years. Brown got the nod (he was admittedly the cheaper keep at the time), and he shone in his new role as starter, catching 83 balls, at the time the third highest total in Patriots history.
The following year brought higher expectations for Brown as the Patriots twice suspended star receiver Terry Glenn, despite a paucity of receiver depth. Brown responded with the best season of his career, with 101 catches for 1199 yards, and game-changing plays in each playoff game as the Patriots grabbed their first title.
But stardom never changed him. Playing a position legendary for its self-absorbed crybabies, Brown remained the same humble, hard-working, honorable man on and off the field.
“Mister Brown”, my father always called him, the only Patriot to whom I’ve heard him affix that salutatory prefix. The label came in the mid-90s, long before Brown started, and long before he was a star. Dad just liked how he carried himself.
He was one of those players you know you’d like regardless of whether he was on your team or not. Tom Brady on another team we’d probably rip to shreds, especially after the GQ goat pictures. Rodney Harrison? Easy to love if he’s yours, easy to hate if he’s not. But Troy Brown’s likeability was universal.
Charles Barkley once famously said athletes shouldn’t be role models, and he was right. But we can’t help ourselves from looking up to athletes, and certainly our kids can’t help themselves either. With Troy Brown, we always knew we had somebody worthy of the honor.
After his son’s heartwrenching question, Brown thoughtfully replied:
It’s a sad day for me too. I saw you out there crying for me and I love you and it’s going to be ok. Daddy’s still going to be around football and he still loves football. If you want to play football he’ll come watch you play and teach you how to play too. As long as you don’t get mad at him when I coach you too hard and when I get on you too hard. That’s just a part of the game. You get older and you’re not able to keep up as well as you used to. Therefore you have to leave the game. I’ve got more time too sit down and watch it with you, whenever you want to.
Mister Brown, still earning our love. The NFL’s gentleman statesman. The Patriots ambassador.
I sure hope we’ll see another one like him.