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Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Marquise "Hollywood" Brown (2) during the 2023 preseason game between the Arizona Cardinals and the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday, Aug 19, 2023 in Glendale, AZ.
Marquise Brown's Journey To Become Hollywood
Wide receiver enters crucial season in contract year consumed with making impact
By Darren Urban Sep 06, 2023
Photographs By Caitlyn Epes

Trying to absorb all the players on the Oklahoma roster – including the "500 billion wide receivers" the Lincoln Riley-led Sooners had – Gus Johnson doesn't recall anyone ever pointing out ahead of time a junior college transfer named Marquise Brown.

But in a key point in a game against Kansas State in 2017 – 6:34 left on the clock in a 28-28 tie – OU quarterback Baker Mayfield dropped back to pass and Johnson, announcing the game for Fox, found himself creating a nickname where there was none.

"Mayfield delivers … BROWN. HOLLYWOOD BROWN. DOWN THE SIDELINE," Johnson bellowed on a 66-yard catch-and-run.

"He went upfield and I looked down and saw Marquise Brown, where is this kid from? Hollywood, Florida," Johnson said. "I didn't know if it was a fluke or something, this kid was so good. It was Marquise, M-A-R-Q, but I guess I hadn't checked because he wasn't on my radar, the coaches hadn't talked about him, nothing.

"Because I couldn't be sure if it was Mar-keese or Marcus, I was like, where is he from – Hollywood, I just started calling him Hollywood. OK, Hollywood. Go ahead."

Seven seasons later, Brown is a wideout for the Cardinals, the presumptive No. 1 receiver after DeAndre Hopkins was released during the offseason. Brown had a team-best 67 receptions last season for 709 yards and three touchdowns, despite missing five games with a foot injury. He heads into 2023 in the final year of his rookie contract, owning a $13 million salary while knowing his performance will dictate what deal he can get going forward.

His best friend is his quarterback, Kyler Murray, although Brown won't have Murray throwing him the ball anytime soon as Murray remains on the PUP list. Brown's work will be with Joshua Dobbs or rookie Clayton Tune in the meantime.

"I represent the Arizona Cardinals, and (GM) Monti (Ossenfort) and JG (Jonathan Gannon)," Brown said. "I'm big on loyalty and I'm real loyal to these guys. I'm loyal to Kyler. I want to show why I am here and why I was brought here."

He has embraced the Hollywood nickname, even when he grew up with a different moniker – Jet – and even though it can give an impression of Brown that doesn't reflect who he is.

"I don't think people really know why he's called that," Murray said. "At OU, we know why but since he got in the league, a lot of people don't know the origin of the nickname. He's definitely not a Hollywood, California-type of guy."

WHEN BROWN was playing Pop Warner at 8 years old, they called him Jet. That's what they called him at the College of the Canyons too, the California school where Brown played junior college football.

Brown couldn't get D-1 offers in high school, but it only took one year in a JUCO to have programs like Oklahoma reach out and bring him in on a recruiting visit.

"Coach (Riley) showed me his highlight and said I need you to look at this, he's coming in this weekend," said Murray, who was Mayfield's backup at the time. "I looked at it and immediately, if you looked at his junior college tape, pretty (expletive) good. It was electric. I was like, 'Oh yeah, we need this guy.'"

And that – more or less – was the beginning of the tight bond between quarterback and wide receiver.

"I wasn't in tune with recruiting and all that, and when I got to Oklahoma to visit he was my host," Brown said. "From that point and time we made that connection. I didn't know Kyler as the best player in Texas high school history or any of that. We just connected because we have the same interests.

"I think me coming off like, 'I don't know you' helped. I just think we got so cool you can tell he let me in more than a lot of other people."

Murray chuckled at the idea Brown didn't know who he was. "I find that hard to believe," Murray said, breaking into a grin. "I think he's lying."

Brown wasn't very talkative on his visit, Murray said, even after a night of hanging out with players and heading out to a campus party.

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) is honored at the University of Oklahoma Spring Game for his Heisman-winning season on Saturday, April 22, 2023 in Norman, OK.

"I feel like I'm really good at reading people, but I couldn't really get a vibe," Murray said. "There wasn't really a click that first visit, you know, you have a best friend, and I don't even really remember how it happened. I think we bonded through grinding, and all the time off the field, and then success on the field."

But Murray was on the bench in 2017 behind Mayfield when Marquise Brown became Hollywood Brown.

The first time Johnson used the nickname, the Sooners ended up beating Kansas State, 42-35, and Brown had six catches for 126 yards. Afterward, Brown saw a clip. "Did he call me Hollywood Brown?" But that was nothing until the next time he and Johnson crossed paths.

Johnson did the play-by-play for the Oklahoma-Oklahoma State game two weeks later, a crazy 62-52 OU win in which Brown had nine catches for 265 yards and two touchdowns – and one iconic Gus Johnson call.

"That's where the legend of Hollywood Brown started," Johnson said.

"Everyone was like 'Hollywood,' my phone blowing up 'Hollywood.' My mom was even like, 'Hollywood,'" Brown recalled with a smile. "I was like 'Dang, this is kind of cool.'"

HOLLYWOOD is a city located just north of Miami and south of Fort Lauderdale, near the water on Florida's east coast. Brown grew up in a community tucked between Sheridan Street and Stirling Road.

"It wasn't the best environment, but I had sports, I had the leaders in the community to keep us out of trouble," Brown said. "When I got to college and then came back home and started meeting with the higher-ups in the city, I could really start to see the nice parts of Hollywood, the great food, the places to hang out."

On July 4, 2021, the city held “Hollywood Brown Day,” provided Brown with a key the city and thanked him for representing the area so well. This offseason was the first when Brown didn't spend the majority of his time there, but he still tries to get back as much as he can. He has a son that lives in Florida, and he has a second son who lives in Arizona that he wants to bring back and see family.

Brown had another reason to want to stay in the Valley this offseason. Murray was going to be around rehabbing, and besides, Brown was going into a big season with a new coaching staff.

"He understands football," passing game coordinator and receivers coach Drew Terrell said. "Football is harder for some guys than others to try and grasp and understand and process. He's a football guy and it makes sense to him conceptually and what you are trying to get done.

"The thing I'm most impressed with is how competitive he is and how he wants to be good. How locked in he is on the practice field. You think about 'Hollywood' being flashy. He's not a flashy guy. He's kind of quiet, reserved, to-himself kind of guy. But he's a very deliberate football player. He sits in the front of meetings, asks questions, wants to know why certain things."

On left, Brown skies on the play in which he injured his foot in 2022; on right, he scores a touchdown against the Eagles.
On left, Brown skies on the play in which he injured his foot in 2022; on right, he scores a touchdown against the Eagles.

Brown knows he is heading into a contract year, but if it is front of mind, he doesn't let it show. He was ready to leave the Baltimore Ravens after the 2021 season – when he became only the fourth 1,000-yard wide receiver in 12 years with the franchise – hoping to find an offense that would provide more big-play opportunities.

Traded to the team where his best friend played quarterback was a side benefit, albeit a big one. Brown knows Murray isn't playing yet and is ready to work with whomever plays, whether it be Dobbs or Tune. But he looks forward to reuniting with Murray on the field, because "we want to show we are some of the best players in the NFL."

The trade "was a no-brainer for me," Murray said. "Obviously it's great to have a friend but I know I can count on him. I know what type of guy he is, I know how much he loves this. I know he puts the work in. I'm trying to get as many dogs in here as possible. JG said it the other day, 'You've got to have guys. No matter how good we coach you, it comes down to the Jimmys and Joes.'"

Brown has connected with some of his other teammates too. He was Scouting combine roommates in 2019 with fellow wideout Greg Dortch as the two bonded as undersized receivers trying to show out. Dortch was impressed with the guy everyone was calling Hollywood, acknowledging that having known a handful of Florida players, "they come with a different swagger."

Then there is rookie wide receiver Michael Wilson, who was playing high school football in California when Brown was starring for College of the Canyons in 2016. Twitter's algorithms pushed Brown's highlights on to Wilson's timeline, creating a fan long before Johnson belted out "HOL-LY-WOOD" to a national TV audience.

There were times – "a few instances" – when people admitted to Brown that after meeting him, he was nothing what they expected. They heard Hollywood and made an assumption, one that never even occurred to Brown as a possibility.

But Brown has embraced his nickname because he is proud of where he came from, a country's width away from the Hollywood everyone knows.

"More than anything, he's representing his hometown, so he has no problems wearing that with honor," Johnson said. "But he plays like he's from Hollywood, California. Lights, camera, action. The flair for the dramatic, a burst of energy and speed, a beautiful smile, he's like a movie star, man."

That's a definition that suits Brown.

"When I am out on the field, I am not that calm, quiet guy," Brown said. "I try to be a playmaker and try to be a highlight-reel type of player. It kind of fits me on the field."

Brown works with wide receivers coach Drew Terrell.
Brown works with wide receivers coach Drew Terrell.
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