2020 NFL Draft prospect Derrick Brown hears his doubters and has a message for them

Former Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown is one of the top players in the 2020 NFL Draft. The unanimous All-American and SEC Defensive Player of the Year became one of the most feared defenders in college football by using his 6-foot-5, 326-pound frame to physically dominate opponents. Many believe Brown will be selected within the first 10 picks come Thursday night, even though the COVID-19 pandemic has made life difficult for NFL teams in their scouting and interviewing processes. Brown says that the coronavirus hasn’t affected how he thinks teams feel about what he can accomplish at the next level. If there are any doubters, he encourages them to just roll the tape.

“I don’t see any difference,” Brown said in a recent interview with CBS Sports. “I sit here and I think that I put the best effort I could — Pro Day, combine, my tape shows for itself. I’m confident in my tape, I’ve been able to do what has been asked of me and I’ve done it at a different level.”

While the 2020 NFL Draft won’t be a public spectacle in Las Vegas, the prospects will still get to spend the special moment when they hear their name announced with their family. 

“It’s been interesting,” Brown said. “I’d rather be in Vegas for sure, but you have to adjust on the fly when things happen outside of your control. It’s an exciting time though, just with everything going on, I think that this moment is one I’ve been waiting to spend with my family for a long time. It may not be in Vegas but we will be doing it from home.” 

“I’ve worked hard to be able to get here and celebrate with them and now that I’m finally getting the opportunity, I’m going to cherish it and take it and do what I do with it.”

Family is very important to Brown. His father was in the active service, so Brown was brought up in a household that was based on discipline as well as relentlessness. Brown’s father didn’t want his son to be average in life no matter what he was doing — and when adversity strikes, Brown’s father taught him that he better have a backup plan. 

“I didn’t realize the sacrifices my dad made until I was in high school,” Brown said. “Especially when my dad pushed me as hard as he did, I don’t expect anything to be given to me that I haven’t earned.”

Brown partnered with USAA, an official NFL Salute to Service Partner, to share how his upbringing set himself up for success both on the field and off the field — and he truly feels like he would have been a different kind of football player if he didn’t have the father he was blessed with. 

“I just believe that I’ve always been structured, it helps me stay structured,” said Brown. “Those values that my dad has instilled in me — second to none. I wake up every single morning and I follow a routine. With everything going on with the coronavirus, it can throw you off but I’ve found a new routine. Being who I am and growing up the way I did, I’ve always just taken (obstacles) with a grain of salt and find a way to get around it, and I do the same thing on the football field.”

After recording 48 total tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and a career-high 4.5 sacks in his junior season, Brown was considered someone who had a good chance to go in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Instead, he elected to return to Auburn to give it a go for another National Championship. While Auburn went 9-4, Brown recorded 54 total tackles, a career-high 11.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. He was awarded the Lott IMPACT Trophy — which is presented to the defensive player in college football that exudes the best in character and performance — as well as the SEC Defensive Player of the Year. 

While it’s clear that Brown actually helped his draft stock by returning for his senior season, he said that he learned lessons over the last year that will help him both on and off the field. 

“I’m happy I decided to stay,” said Brown. “During the season we had a couple of games we lost we probably shouldn’t have lost. It was tough throughout the season but just being able to push through and be a leader last year — that’s what I took away from that. I got to be with my son the whole year, I also got to spend time finishing my degree and that was a big thing for me. I also extended my football knowledge while I was there.”

There’s no denying Brown’s talent, but because of the position he plays, he could fall out of the top five. Brown isn’t preoccupied about where exactly he will land on Thursday night, but he knows the kind of impact he can have on a defense — so he doesn’t concern himself with whatever concerns you may have about him as a player. 

“I’ve been doubted all my life, man,” said Brown. “I just take it with a grain of salt. I’m hearing all the criticisms, I’ve seen it all. I just take it and at the end of the day it’s how I come back so it doesn’t really matter.”

Several NFL Draft experts at CBS have Brown being selected No. 7 overall by the Carolina Panthers. I asked Brown what he thought about that fit.

“It wouldn’t be a bad deal!” responded Brown. “But you know, the draft is one of the things that I don’t think anybody can truly predict so I just don’t even pay attention to the mocks. I stay open-minded because you never know what can happen on draft night.”

Whichever NFL team decides to take a shot on Brown is going to get a hard-worker — a proven defensive monster who was brought up with the right values, and has successfully turned that work ethic into an aggressive mindset which has helped him evolve into one of the most intriguing prospects in this year’s draft.  

“I’m one of the top players in the draft because my tape speaks for itself — I’m a hard-working dude,” said Brown. “I have relentless effort, I refuse to be stopped. When I step on the field, that switch clicks on and it don’t ever turn off. It’s one of those things where I take joy in being able to physically impose my will on people and just going forward — I’m looking at learning more tools but that same mindset is going to continue.” 

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