Tonight at HFX Sports Bar & Grill (check it out), Troy Brown is in town. The wide receiver of the New England Patriots for fifteen years, with three Super Bowl rings (2002, 2004, 2005), five AFC wins and an induction into the Patriots Hall of Fame, came by The Coast today to chat about his football career. One lucky fan at HFX will win a trip to Super Bowl 50!
Originally from South Carolina (watch this), Brown played for Marshall University in West Virginia before being drafted into the NFL in 1993. He was cut then re-signed and for over a decade, he helped take the Patriots to the Super Bowl five times; the first time in 1997 and then with QB Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick. He set team reception records (557) with a career-high of 31 touchdowns. Since his retirement in 2008, the family man has been a Patriots commentator with ComCast and he recently published a book about his time with the team, Patriot Pride: My Life in the New England Dynasty (available on Amazon).
Brown is in town for one night at HFX Sports Bar (8pm, 19+) to watch the Chicago Bears play the Green Bay Packers, the team that defeated the Patriots at the Super Bowl in the '96 season.
What brings you to Halifax?
I'm here to help the NFL. I’m all for promoting our game. For me, to be here promoting the game and getting recognized by fans, that's saying a lot for the game. The fans here are into it just as much as the fans back in the States. It says a lot for game and for the people of Halifax, as well.
It seems you still have a good relationship with the Patriots.
I’m not officially involved, but I’m around. I live five minutes away from the facility, so I’m around, and I’ve got an open invitation from Belichick and (Robert) Kraft that I’m always welcome.
Can you tell me about your loyalty to the team. Fifteen years is a long time.
Loyalty-wise, I was in a position where — when Belichick came back in 2000 — I was with the Kansas City Chiefs as a free agent, and I thought about signing with them but when I was there, the Patriots offered me an opportunity to be a starting wide receiver for the team. So I ended up coming back and we only won four or five games the first year, but then things just started clicking. I was in my eighth, ninth season at that particular time and I was like, well, why not stay? That’s where I had been my whole career. And the fans became pretty loyal towards me and really respected and enjoyed the way I played the game. It just became like a second home to me.
And you had built such strong team by that point ...
Yes, we built the foundation. What you see now was built by the guys who played in the 2000 and 2001 years and the fans really still love us. I haven’t played in eight years and I still have a lot of respect. I just put a book out and that’s done really well. I think the fans really related with it well, and I think I underestimated what I meant to the community and the New England area. Fans have really come out and supported the book and support me. It makes it a great place to live.
Playing college, at what point did an NFL career feel like a real possibility?
It was the moment I got drafted. I didn’t have any idea what it really was, at that particular time. I just knew I was going to the NFL. I just knew it was a childhood dream, and now here I am. But at first, I only knew I was gonna be on an NFL team. I didn’t know the ins-and-outs of being cut or staying on the roster, you know? I was clueless about all those things and I actually made the final cut in my rookie year so I think the reality sunk in when I was on the NFL roster ... But it was short-lived because I got cut the following training camp and eventually was brought back on the roster, and that's actually when the reality of it set in — not just "making it" but how difficult it was to stay there and have a career ... And then to play fifteen years was kind of unheard of. I played fifteen years with the same team. After 1993, they came with the new CBA (collective bargaining agreement) and guys could go into free agency and sign with different teams and so playing with the same team for fifteen years was really unheard of. You don’t see that happen in today’s game.
Well on top of that, it was an amazing fifteen years!
An amazing fifteen years. And every year we had a chance. We had a chance and that’s what so great about it. In 2000, we were out of it. In 2002, we didn’t make playoffs. We were close. But every year from that point on, we were there and we always had a chance. Ten of those fifteen years I played, we were in the playoffs and we had an opportunity to do something. Lotta guys can’t say that. In the earlier days, a couple guys I played with had never played a playoff game, and these guys were at the end of their careers at that time. So you could see how thankful they were to be a part of the Patriots. Those kinds of things are great stories to share with the people.
On that note, what are some of your highlights? Super Bowls obviously ...
I like to share the highlights and lowlights. You know, being cut, being a 23-year-old kid, basically and not understanding the situation I was in and how it all worked out ... Those are things I learned to appreciate and learn valuable lessons from. How to conduct myself as a professional and not just rest on, 'Oh I’ve made it, my dream is complete, I've got the uniform.' Those kinds of things I look back on and learn to appreciate, you know? Some of the bonehead plays that happened (laughs), I reflect on those, as well. Like, I fumbled on my first kick-off, in New England, our first home game, I fumbled it but scored a touchdown, one of the fastest touchdown scores in the history of the game. From there, I just continued to grow. I didn’t let those things hold me down or get me down, I just used them to help myself grow a little bit ... Being able to play in the Super Bowl, in my fourth year, against the Packers ... We were were out-manned, you know, they were a superior team by far, man, but we hung in there with them. It's in my book ...
2001 was a big year. The 2001 team was an amazing team ... 9/11, the quarterback’s coach died, Bledsoe got hurt, Tom Brady coming in for the first time and being named the starter for the rest of the year. Those kind of things stick out in my career and some of the plays that happened: blocking the kick in Pittsburgh and picking it up, and scoring a touchdown and returning the point for a touchdown ... Adam Vinatieri kicking the field goal in the snow against the Raiders. All those great stories. I have a lot of great memories. I'm 44 now. They're still there.
What's Tom Brady like?
Tom Brady’s pretty cool. He’s a down-to-earth guy, like he’s probably more shy than people think he is. He's probably the opposite of Peyton Manning — Peyton’s out there with the media stuff.
I love Papa Johns.
Yeah, he hasn’t found a deal he doesn’t like (laughs) but Tom’s more reserved. I like Peyton, he’s a great guy, awesome guy, but Tom's just a little different, a little more reserved. He chooses things cautiously. And he's a great teammate, very respectful. He demands a lot of everybody and a lot out of himself, and I think that’s why you see him being so successful and the team being so successful, because he keeps the bar set at a high, high level all the time, he’s an awesome guy.
- Belichick and Brown
So what's Belichick like?
He’s great too. Everybody has those days, but for the most part, he likes to joke. He likes to laugh, but he likes to get his work done, as well. But, you know, he’s actually pretty funny. He likes to be comical and I think he gets a bad rep just because of the way he is with the media, his short answers and his grumpy disposition (laughs) but that comes along with it. I think he understands that. The people that know him, the guys that know him, they know he’s a good guy.
He must inspire the the team.
He does. He does a great job. There's no other way his team could be so successful unless he keeps finding ways to motivate them and inspire them to go out and play the way they do, every single week. It’s not an easy job. Players can get complacent or satisfied with where they are, with money they have, whatever else, but he continues to find ways to motivate them. He's inspiring.
As a commentator for ComCast, you must catch all the games.
I pretty much watch every single game. I'm always watching them.
What are you thoughts on the season so far?
Season’s been great! They’re 10 and 0. I'm just a little concerned about so many injuries, especially on offense. I wonder how long can they hold up. I’d love to see them go undefeated. As a player, I wouldn’t talk about that, but since I'm curbing the team now, that would be awesome. But it’s the way things are with that team, they’re down to basically two healthy receivers now. And one healthy receiver just got moved up from the practice squad last week, so that’s what they’re down to. It makes it a lot less likely, especially going into Denver this week. Denver is pretty tough, their defence is really, really good. And the offense is starting to play better now that Peyton’s out. Who could imagine that? But I still want to see them go undefeated, but i’m a little less optimistic about it ... if they lose this week, it’s not the end of the world. It gives them a chance to get a little more healthy for the last five weeks of the season and give that big push.
Were you in Arizona for Super Bowl XLIX?
Yes I was, man. It’s a great place to have a Super Bowl, by the way. The weather wasn’t as great as we wanted it, but it's a great place to have it, for that time of year. And it was quite a finish to the game. That’s how you want them, that’s how New England Super Bowls always are. They always come down to the wire. We found a way to come out on top. And the energy is ridiculous, it is ridiculous. It's almost as great as having kids, watching your kids be born, it’s a great feeling.
What retirement been like? Are you enjoying it?
I planned to take a year off but WEEI, a radio station, called me to do some pre-game radio shows then ComCast asked if I wanted to do pre-game and nightly shows and I’m like, sure why not. So I ended up getting into that side of things, media and broadcasting, and it's something I never thought I’d do but I ended up liking it! It kept me around the game and I'm still doing it.
And you bring so much expertise with you ...
Yes, they appreciated that a lot. And I got better at speaking. As a player, I was little shy, I was camera-shy definitely. I didn’t feel very comfortable so I didn't speak well in front of those cameras, but this helped me out a lot, even just in terms of dealing with people — So like, me sitting here right now having this conversation probably wouldn’t have happened 10 years ago ... As a player, I ran from the cameras. Anytime it was time for the cameras, I’d run into the meeting room and got dressed in there (laughs). This has helped me a lot.
Aside from the book and media, what other plans do you have?
Well, I got my two oldest kids — one’s a senior, one’s a sophomore — so once that sophomore gets to senior year, I'll start to think about what’s going to happen, but the work I do now is perfect for me. And my kids are soccer players so it allows me to watch them and hang out when they have games and what not. So once that comes to an end, we’ll see, but there are a lot of avenues in the NFL. That’s what’s so great about this game. There are so many great things you can do with this game to help out and that’s what it’s all about with me. That’s the Patriot way.