Rookie linebacker Cody Brown takes part in sprints during an organized team activity earlier this offseason.
Cody Brown just wanted to get to college. That was it.
He wasn't highly recruited coming out of Fort Lauderdale. Florida is rich with high school football talent; there's a reason Miami, Florida, Florida State and even Central Florida are usually well-stocked with homegrown players. At that point in Brown's life, though, he wasn't one of those college targets.
Eastern Michigan looked at him. He had "a couple of (recruiting) letters." But when the University of Connecticut called, it was good enough for the undersized defensive end with potential.
Getting to the NFL? "It wasn't a big dream," Brown said.
Brown says this sitting at his locker in the Cardinals' locker room. College turned into a stepping stone when Brown became the Cards' second-round draft pick, groomed for a switch from defensive end to linebacker. He weighs 245 pounds now, about 30 pounds heavier than when he first brought his 6-foot-2 frame to UConn.
He realized he had a chance to go pro as the years went on, as the UConn football program rose in stature, and as he piled up numbers (18½ sacks the two years he started) for the Huskies.
"Pound for pound, he was the strongest kid at UConn," said Cardinals scout Don Corzine, who worked as the UConn director of football operations before being hired by the Cards in 2005. "He is extremely athletic. You can see his upside."
The emergence of UConn as a football program didn't hurt Brown either. That was apparent on draft day, when Brown – taken with the 63rd overall pick – was the fourth Husky selected. Running back Donald Brown, cornerback Darius Butler and tackle Will Beatty also went in the first two rounds.
Cody Brown never thought such a thing possible. When he arrived at UConn, not only was he unsure of his own long-term ability, he wasn't sure Storrs, Conn., was the jumping off point to the pros. He remembered arriving at UConn and seeing the NFL helmets of players that had "made it."
"There were, like, four dudes," Brown said.
The list isn't quite that short, although perusing a list of UConn NFL players isn't exactly awe-inspiring. Of the 26 NFL players listed as all-time UConn products on databaseFootball.com, only seven lasted more than two seasons with the most memorable probably quarterback Don Orlovsky.
"You realized you'd have to work extremely hard for someone from Connecticut to make it," Brown said.
He was encouraged as he headed into his senior year, however, as draft pundits began mentioning his name more often. Brown also talked to Corzine, who remains friendly with his former colleagues at UConn. Corzine told Brown if he played well as a senior, his draft stock would solidify.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, knew they'd be looking for pass rushers and kept an eye on Brown. Because Corzine knew the UConn coaches so well, "we had a pretty good bead on him," Corzine said. The Cards didn't like him only on Corzine's word, however; Corzine said four or five different people from the organization ended up doing reports on Brown and all had his graded about the same.
Now Brown is the team's next best hope as a long-term pass rusher -- and a long way from being under-recruited coming out of high school.
"There were a lot of guys from my area who were heavily recruited," Brown said. "I always wanted to stack my numbers up against them every year.
"I'm the only one left. Holding the torch for Fort Lauderdale'05, baby!"
Contact Darren Urban at firstname.lastname@example.org. Posted 7/8/09.