Every NFL team knows the key to building a winning program starts with finding quality players later in the draft, whether on Day 3 or in undrafted free agency. Finding a way to match value with need and mining the later rounds for underrated prospects from smaller programs who may have fallen through the cracks is key to sustained success.
The Tennessee Titans may have found a gem in former Texas State offensive lineman Aaron Brewer, who made the 53-man roster last season despite coming in as a UDFA in 2020. Not only did Brewer make the team, but he really impressed in his lone start of the season, a thrilling midseason win over the Baltimore Ravens.
Brewer recently spoke exclusively with Broadway Sports about his rookie season, the controversy surrounding his playing weight, what it’s like to work with offensive line coach Keith Carter, and the special bond he’s developed with a fellow second-year player.
JM: You joined the Titans as an undrafted free agent last season. You made the team and had a really interesting rookie season. How do you look back on 2020?
AB: My rookie season went by so fast. There are always a few obstacles you have to overcome as an undrafted free agent. People’s perception of my weight was one of them. People have always talked about that when it comes to me and my playing career. That’s nothing new to me. That’s been the case for as long as I can remember. My rookie season was a great experience, though. It’s been a fun journey so far.
The experience of playing in the NFL is still so crazy to me. Am I really in the NFL? I have to ask myself sometimes (laughs). I’m making my dream come true right now. It still doesn’t feel real to me. I have to pinch myself every now and then (laughs). I pinched myself every day during my rookie season. Wow, I’m really here. I really made it. I feel blessed, you know?
JM: We couldn’t be happier for you. Which area of your game do you think grew the most during your rookie season?
AB: I would say every aspect of my game got better during my rookie season. I’m constantly learning and trying to get better. That’s how I approach every single day. I kept that same attitude during the season. That’s how I’ve been this entire offseason as well. I grew a lot mentally both in the running game and passing game. There’s always something to get better at. I’m trying to get 1% better every day. There’s always something to work on. I like focusing on the little things. Focus on something, get better at it and move onto something else. That’s how I play the game. If I get better at one little detail in the running game, once I do that, I’m ready to focus on something else. Every time you get better at something, there’s always another thing for you to work on. I got better in every area during my rookie season. I grew a lot mentally. I know the game better now than ever before.
JM: It showed. Not only did you make the team as an undrafted free agent, but you made your first start in a big win over the Baltimore Ravens. That was an important game at the time. There’s a bit of a rivalry there and both teams were jockeying for position in the AFC playoff picture. What was your mindset like going into your first career start against a physical team like the Ravens?
AB: I didn’t think about it too much honestly. I tried to treat it like just another game. It’s just football. I’ve been playing it my whole life. I remember when I made my first career start in college. I treated it the same way. It’s another game. There’s another human being lined up across from me. It’s me against another human being. Everybody wakes up the same way. We all walk the same. I didn’t think of it as some big opportunity. I didn’t make myself nervous. It’s another football game. I had to do what I had to do. I didn’t try to make the moment too big.
JM: You played a great game. The first question I asked you, you were quick to bring up your weight. It’s definitely a talking point. I don’t know what you weighed during the season, but you were listed at 6-foot-1, 275 pounds. It’s an unusual size for a modern offensive lineman. In fact, I can’t find another lineman under 280 pounds who started a game in the last 20 years. However, you excelled every time you got an opportunity to play as a rookie. Is putting on additional weight something you believe is necessary for a long NFL career?
AB: I would say yes, but I don’t think I need to put on a lot of weight. A lot of people think that 300, 305 pounds is a perfect weight for an offensive lineman. That line of thinking has never made any sense to me. There isn’t a number that represents some magical weight. You’re not automatically going to get better because you hit some number on the scale. That’s not going to make you a better player. It can help you, but I’ve never believed that I needed to be a certain weight in order to excel. There’s a lot more that goes into it.
JM: That’s a great point. You’re living proof. How does your size impact the way you approach the game?
AB: I’ve always weighed a lot less than most offensive lineman. I’ve never thought much about it. At the end of the day, I’m going to war with another grown man. That’s what it’s like playing on the offensive line. I need to win the battle. I don’t care if you’re 20 or 100 pounds heavier than me. I still have to do my job. I don’t have another option. My weight doesn’t impact how I’m about to approach the next matchup. It’s not a factor to me. I’m a man and I’m gonna handle my business. I’m not gonna lose a one-on-one battle with another man. I’m just not gonna do that. A lot of people think an offensive lineman has to be 320 pounds or whatever. Me myself, I’m a strong individual. My legs can squat what a person weighs. As long as I’m able to squat what a person weighs or even double that, I’m okay (laughs).
JM: That’s an incredible answer. There’s no doubt that your weight didn’t hold you back last season. I know that you say there isn’t some magical number, but what do you consider to be your ideal playing weight?
AB: I would say somewhere between 290 and 295. I personally think that’s a great weight for me. The way I play the game, how I like to move around, that’s an ideal number right there.
JM: You played every position on the offensive line in college at Texas State. Do you have a personal favorite position to play?
AB: I’m not gonna lie to you. I really don’t. I just like playing football, period. I’d play every single position on the field if I could. It doesn’t matter to me. Wherever I’m needed to play, that’s where you’ll find me.
JM: Do you think that experience helped you better understand how you can help the lineman next to you?
AB: It definitely did, yeah. From the first time I ever played offensive line as a kid, I actually started out as a center. That’s the first position I played on the O-line. Playing the center position helps you understand everything that’s going on around you. After that, every other position on the line became easier for me. It’s all the same after that. Playing center at a young age is the best experience you could have. It helps you understand what’s going on at every level of the offense. You know how it feels to play every other position.
JM: That makes sense. There was a recent video from a Keith Carter coaching clinic presentation that featured some practice clips of you working on some technique drills. What stands out the most to you about coach Carter’s approach?
AB: I love talking about coach Carter (laughs). What I’ll say about Keith is this, his standard is his standard. He comes at you with everything he has. He’s not gonna let up for anybody. He’s not gonna lower his standard for you. It doesn’t matter if you’re a 10 year veteran or a rookie undrafted free agent. His standard is his standard. He’s gonna come at you hard and try to help you become the best player you can be.
JM: He’s an excellent coach. Is there a teammate or two that you’re looking forward to learning from or practicing against this year?
AB: I always look forward to learning from our veterans. Ben Jones and Rodger Saffold are two interior guys. Ben Jones is a guru. He’s a genius. He knows the game of football like the back of his hand. You already know about Saffold. He’s a beast at the left guard position. I always look forward to learning from those two players.
JM: Those are excellent choices. Do you enjoy practicing against any of the defensive lineman in general?
AB: I love going up against my guy Teair Tart. He’s one of my close friends. We came in together. We were just two undrafted guys. We get after one another pretty hard on the practice field. We push each other to become better players. When we’re on that field, we’re going at it. Off the field, we know what it is. We have a close friendship. We have this bond. We became very close. I’m also looking forward to playing with some of the older veteran guys that are new to the team. Denico Autry and Bud Dupree come to mind. That experience is going to make me better as well. That’s gonna be amazing. I’m looking forward to it.
JM: Those are some great choices. We’re big Teair Tart fans here. He had a similar story to you last year. He also impressed in limited action as a rookie. We’ve really appreciated your time today, Aaron. In closing, what do your goals look like for these next few weeks?
AB: My goal is to be the best version of myself in 2021. I’m ready to attack my sophomore season. I’m trying to be the best player I can be.