Seahawk Brandon Browner's long exile in Canada is over
Brandon Browner will start this season on the Hawks' 53-man roster and probably start at corner in the season's opener Sunday in San Francisco.
Seattle Times staff columnist
As he slowly unspooled the tape from his hands after Friday's final exhibition game, Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner barely allowed himself a slight, satisfied smile.
After all he's been through, all of the disappointments — after four seasons in the Canadian Football League; after tryouts with a half-dozen NFL teams, including an earlier trial with the Seahawks; after being told he was too tall or too slow to play cornerback in the National Football League, Browner had made it.
He would start this season on the Hawks' 53-man roster and probably start at corner in the season opener Sunday in San Francisco.
He could have allowed himself a minute to scream at the top of his lungs and celebrate the culmination of a journey. He could have cried or roared.
But Browner, 27, has been around too long and heard too much bad news to allow this one shining moment to consume him. He knows that in the NFL, especially the Pete Carroll NFL, the starting position you earn on opening day could be gone by Week 2.
There is no such thing as job security. A career can be lost in one bad game.
"Always want to stay humble," Browner said. "Don't want to stay too high or too low about it."
Watch him in practice or preseason this summer and you had to wonder how so many teams could have been so wrong about him. In a league where wide receivers are getting taller, Browner, at 6 feet 4, 225 pounds, seems like a natural. But in the past five years he had auditioned for Miami, Philadelphia, Minnesota and the Seahawks and never gotten a call back.
"Sure, there were times when I thought I'd just get looked over," he said. "I'm 27 now. I'm not getting any younger."
Browner looked at this summer as his last chance to make it. If the Hawks cut him, he was planning to return to Canada and sign a long-term deal with Calgary. The dream would die.
"I knew this would be my last shot," he said. "I came in here and told myself, 'Go out there and be yourself. Do what you do best. Show these guys that you can play football.' "
The CFL is a great place to learn cornerback. The game is an aerial circus. The field is longer and wider. And receivers get as much as a 10-yard running start on the defensive backs. For a cornerback, the game is relentless. Browner is grateful for his opportunity in Calgary.
But there were the days when it was forbiddingly frosty. There were few heaters on the sidelines and sometimes it was so cold, the mucus froze in Browner's nose. Yeah, that cold.
But without his four years in the CFL, the three-time league all-star knows there would have been no NFL.
"It could get really cold up there. Really cold," he said. "But it was still fun. I still got to do what I love to do. I loved every minute of it."
It's hard not to cheer for guys like Browner, who haven't quit, who knew more about themselves than the dozens of scouts and coaches who missed their chances with him. Hard not to root for guys who appreciate where they are because of where they've been.
In 2005, Browner was an undrafted free agent signed by the Denver Broncos. He broke his left forearm in camp and was cut in 2006.
He was 20 years old when he left Oregon State and he admits he wasn't savvy enough to understand how much work it took to make it into the NFL. Every athlete matures on a different schedule. It took success in the CFL and a few disappointments in the NFL for Browner to arrive.
"I've always believed in myself as a ballplayer, but I've matured as a man more than anything," he said. "I've always been a good ballplayer, but there were some things I was doing as a young guy, you know I was only 20 years old back in Denver, and being away from this league for so long has helped me mature and helped me understand what I needed to do to grow.
"I have a different respect for the game now. I'm doing things I wasn't doing, like really studying film. I didn't even know how to study film back then. Now I'm showing the right respect for the game. I'm doing the little things it takes to have longevity in this game."
He worked out for the Hawks in January. They signed him before the lockout began and he earned his place with a relentlessly good training camp.
"This is a blessing," he said. "Best feeling in the world. This is what I've been waiting for all my life. I had the chance back in '05, but I was too young and didn't take advantage of it. But everybody gets a second chance in life, and I feel like this is my second chance."
Browner smiled again, which is about as close to a celebration as we'll see from him.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or email@example.com
About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
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