Rookie wide receiver John Brown streaks down the field after catch a pass in a training camp practice.
The easiest way to understand the ascension of John Brown may be to follow the thought process of quarterback Carson Palmer.
When the Cardinals chose the diminutive wide receiver in the third round of this year's draft, Palmer questioned whether a kid from Division II Pittsburg State could quickly make the transition to the NFL.
"When you get a guy that's not a first round pick who is from a smaller school, when those guys come in, you always kind of wonder, 'Is it going to be too big for them?'" Palmer said.
With a discerning eye, Palmer watched Brown take the field for offseason workouts. It wasn't too long, though, until the
veteran signal-caller – along with many others in the organization – began praising Brown consistently, raving about his speed, route-running, hands and mental proficiency.
Away from the spotlight, it was the same thing. Following minicamp, Palmer invited Brown to his home in Southern California to develop their on- and off-field chemistry. During that time, Brown showed his youth -- talking to his mom "25 times a day," according to Palmer -- but also his desire to improve.
The pair would wake up at 6:30 a.m. and train for several hours. After that, Brown would spend time with Palmer's family before repeating the process the next day.
If Palmer questioned Brown's ability to make an immediate impact on draft day, he's not doing so any more. By working with him during the offseason, it's clear the 34-year-old quarterback – who is in the last year of his contract – sees a player who can be counted on in 2014.
"The one thing that jumped out is nothing is too big for him," Palmer said. "Whether we are at the facility and no one is around or there is 10,000 people in the stands and we are in pads and you are going against Patrick Peterson, all that, nothing is too big for him. He doesn't have big eyes in the huddle, looking around nervously."
Brown was compared to Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and Steelers wideout Antonio Brown shortly after the draft. But quietly around the Cardinals, there has been another name tossed around in the Brown conversation – Marvin Harrison. The two weigh about the same (180 pounds) yet are tough.
Brown actually needs to catch a pass or two before he really deserves to be mentioned with a sure-fire Hall of Famer, but
Brown is honored to be compared to any NFL player right now.
"Those are big shoes to fill, but I'm just working to progress my game to get to where those guys are at today," Brown said.
Even those three took some time to get accustomed to the NFL. Antonio Brown had 167 receiving yards in his first year, Harrison didn't reach 1,000 yards in a season until his fourth year, and while Hilton had the most immediate impact, it took him about half a season to become a big threat.
Brown knows the deck is stacked against rookies, but doesn't want to play like one. Coach Bruce Arians has praised him for picking up the offense, and true to form, Brown spent time on his off day Thursday buried in his playbook.
"I'm intent on making an impact right away," he said. "These guys brought me in, and I know I can help out."
Brown said he's dreamed of being in the NFL since he was five years old, but never considered the accompanying hoopla. He has been one of the more talked about players at camp, fulfilling many interview requests and getting bombarded by autograph seekers.
"Seeing these people out here every day, just to watch practice?" Brown said. "That's some motivation."
There seems to be little concern within the organization that the transition will be too much for the even-keeled Brown.
"A football player is a football player," offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. "As long as you can learn it, your athleticism is going to take over and your skill is going to take over."
Michael Floyd, Ted Ginn and Larry Fitzgerald are higher on the depth chart, but Brown seems headed for a prominent role months after being an unknown to the NFL world.
The Cardinals have one of the top cornerbacks in the league playing across from him at training camp, and while Patrick Peterson isn't ready to say Brown can beat him in a foot race, he knows a talented receiver when he sees one.
"From the outside looking in – not being in the huddle and not being able to see his eyes – so far he looks very good," Peterson said. "He looks like he's Carson's favorite target down the field right now. He's going to create a lot of matchup troubles."