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5 Things to Know About John Brown

Posted Mar 18, 2018

He carries the sickle cell trait. He had a unique path to the NFL and also had to overcome the hardship of his brother’s murder.


The Ravens added John Brown to their receiving corps this week at the start of free agency.

Here are five things to know about Baltimore’s new receiver:

1) He’s a big-play threat.

Brown’s greatest attribute might be his speed. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.34 seconds at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine, and he’s shown the ability to beat defenses over the top during his NFL career. He’s averaged 14.5 yards per catch during his four seasons in the NFL. Even last season when he dealt with toe and quad issues and was limited to just 10 games, Brown still averaged 14.2 yards per catch. Having a big-play threat like Brown on the field is a needed element for the Ravens as they look to improve on their 5.7-yards per completion average from last season.

Carson Palmer, Brown’s quarterback during his time in Arizona, had high praise for what he brings to an offense. “There’s a fear when he’s out there, for defenders,” Palmer said.


2) Brown carries the sickle-cell trait.

The wide receiver was dealing with sore hamstrings throughout the 2016 season when he underwent blood tests to further investigate the source of the issue. The tests revealed that Brown carries the sickle-cell trait, which is the result of inheriting the sickle-cell gene for one of his parents. Carrying the trait doesn’t mean that Brown has sickle-cell disease, but carriers do typically experience soreness or muscle breakdown from intense exercise or heat. Cardinals Head Coach Bruce Arians said the trait can prolong recovery from injuries. Brown has been able to continue his career since getting diagnosed, but the condition is serious and does need to be monitored.

3) Brown had to deal with the murder of his brother.

As a college student, Brown had to deal with the hardship of losing one of his closest family members. Brown’s half-brother, James Walker, was shot and killed while home during his college break. Walker and Brown were just a year apart and were extremely close growing up. As Walker fought for his life after being shot three times, Brown promised him he would score the first time he touched the ball in the upcoming season. Brown fulfilled that promise by taking a punt return for an 84-yard touchdown. “Every day I wake up I hear him,” Brown told AZcardinals.com in 2014. “When I’m tired, when I’m working out and thinking about giving up, I can hear him in my head. It just pushes me to go even harder.”

4) Brown had a unique path to the NFL.

Brown was an under-the-radar prospect coming out of high school. He was slightly undersized at the position, and he accepted a scholarship to play at Division II Mars Hill University. He ultimately had to leave Mars Hill because of academic issues and then transferred to Coffeyville Community College in Kansas. The community college had a rule that restricted the football team to 12 out-of-state players on the roster, and Brown (a Florida native) didn’t make the cut. He remained at Coffeyville and continued to practice, which is how Pittsburg State spotted him. They offered him a scholarship based on what they saw in practice, and he went on to shine at Pittsburg State before becoming a third-round pick by the Cardinals.

5) His Nickname is ‘Smokey.’

Brown’s nickname is “Smokey,” and his teammates in Arizona often shortened it just to “Smoke.” Friends and family use the nickname rather than calling him “John,” and he explained the origin of it during an interview with the Cardinals website in 2014. He said his grandmother’s boyfriend gave him the nickname when he was first born. “He nicknamed me Smokey because when I first came out, I was blacker than what I am now,” Brown said, referring to his skin color. “Most people are like, ‘Why they call you Smokey? Because you are fast?’ But no.”

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