When Tennessee Titans wide receiver Fred Brown steps onto the practice field at Saint Thomas Sports Park for the start of training camp, he’ll do so surrounded by several familiar faces. Originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the Colts in 2017, Brown is now on his fourth team in five years.
Changing teams and area codes is nothing new for professional football players. It comes with the life. But as Brown gets acclimated with yet another organization, he’ll have the comfort of friends by his side. Brown attended Mississippi State and although he missed sharing a field with Titans defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons by a year, he remembers seeing Simmons on campus for the first time. “Right away, I knew he was the real deal,” Brown says.
Brown was born in Jackson, Mississippi. He played his college football just two hours away in Starkville. He’ll always have ties to the state. Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown was born in Starkville, and although he played college football at rival school Ole Miss, Fred Brown built a relationship with him. “Being two guys from Mississippi, we’ve been in touch since he was at Ole Miss. He’s always had the look of a special player.” Brown also spent the better part of a year with fellow Titans receiver Josh Reynolds in Los Angeles during the 2018 season.
This league has thrown its fair share of ups and downs at him, but Brown has found a way to remain focused and humble through it all. As he gets ready for a new professional challenge in Tennessee, he knows nothing will be handed to him. There’s a reason Brown has earned himself this opportunity. He believes that his work ethic and versatility will impress the front office and coaching staff over the next few weeks.
Brown recently spoke exclusively with Broadway Sports about his NFL journey, the art of playing the wide receiver position, his first memory of seeing Simmons at Mississippi State, and his plans for this year’s training camp.
JM: You signed with the Titans after spending time with the Broncos, Colts and Rams. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned on your NFL journey so far?
FB: I’m entering my fourth season in this league. I’ve put in a lot of hard work to get this far. I’ve really had to dedicate myself. I’ve learned from some of the best receivers in the league. I’m talking about guys that have made a name for themselves. I played with Robert Woods for a year and a half. I was in Denver with Emmanuel Sanders and other veteran receivers for about two years. I learned so much from those guys. I had to build my game up. I’m still working on becoming the type of receiver that I want to be, but those players helped me along the way. I soaked up a lot of knowledge on every stop I’ve ever made.
JM: We love that. You broke into the league as an undrafted free agent. The mindset and work ethic that it takes to make it as a UDFA, it takes something special.
FB: Coming in as an undrafted free agent, I knew that everything was going to be a little bit harder. Everything is a bit tougher. There isn’t a lot of room for error. You have to prove yourself every single day. I was just trying to make a name for myself while earning a spot on the roster. I wanted to play special teams. I wanted to find out what my role was going to look like. Coming in as a UDFA has its advantages and disadvantages. I try to approach everything I do with a positive attitude. I come in every single day and work my butt off. I’m gonna do everything the coaches ask of me and more. I need to be versatile. I can line up at every position. The more positions you can play, the more time you’ll spend on the field. You have to be open minded. I always try to make big plays. You have to make sure the coaches notice you. You have to put good things on film. I’m always trying to do the right things.
JM: You certainly understand what it takes to make it in this league. From your rookie season to right now, which areas of your game have grown the most?
FB: Coming out of Mississippi State, I think every area of my game is better now than it was then. I can make that window even smaller and say that I’m way better now than I was one or two years ago. I started training with a new group of trainers on a daily basis and I see a big difference. I’m perfecting my craft as a route runner. I’m getting in and out of my breaks with more efficiency, with no wasted steps or movement. I’m working on my mechanics. I’m working on my hip mobility and doing a lot of overall body work. I’ve invested in my body. I believe in the training. It’s all about the process. I’m not just out here going through the motions. I don’t care about looking good on Instagram and what not. I’m honing my craft and getting better. I understand what my weaknesses are and I’m trying to improve in those areas too. I’m also making my strengths even stronger.
To summarize, I’m definitely a better route runner now. I get in and out of my breaks way quicker now than I did in the past. Movement, hip mobility — I can go on and on. I’m always trying to sharpen my tools. I wanna go out there and make some spectacular catches. I’m training as hard as ever right now.
JM: That’s a great answer. With that said, do you have a favorite route to run?
FB: I definitely have a favorite route to run, but I prefer to keep information to myself (laughs). I hope I get to run that route this coming season but I can’t tip my hand in an interview (laughs). I definitely have a favorite route, though. I hope I get to run it as a Tennessee Titan. That’s my go-to route. You’re gonna see it throughout training camp. You’ll know it when you see it.
JM: Don’t give up any competitive advantage (laughs). I respect it. This is a new beginning and destination for you. Tell me a little about this opportunity.
FB: I feel like I have a great opportunity here in Tennessee. I was excited to come here as a free agent. I came over here from Denver where I played a lot of special teams. I also played my fair share of snaps on offense in Denver. I was on the field quite a bit. I have some experience and I plan to use that to my advantage. I’m gonna do everything the coaches want me to do. I plan to make a name for myself in Nashville. I plan on earning a roster spot.
JM: What’s your impression of wide receivers coach Rob Moore and offensive coordinator Todd Downing?
FB: I feel like those two guys work well together. I spoke with Todd and Rob when I first got here. I went through OTA’s under their guidance. I was involved in the offseason workouts and what not. They like my game. I’m a fast receiver that runs good routes. That’s always been my reputation. I’m just trying to perfect my game in the offense that coach Downing wants to run. I’m learning the system. This is where I can lean on my NFL experience. I’m taking something from every team I’ve played for. It helps me be a quick learner. I spent two and a half years in Denver. I’m in a new system now and I’m trying to perfect my craft. I need to run these routes the way coach Moore wants them to be run. Coach Moore is a great coach. He gives us a lot of pointers as far as route running goes. We talk about releases off the line of scrimmage. He’s a great guy. He pays a lot of attention to the finer details. He enjoys developing wide receivers. You can check his track record. It speaks for itself. He’s worked with some excellent receivers in this league. He helped those guys develop. I watch film on some of the guys that coach Moore has worked with. There’s no denying that he’s helped develop some good receivers.
JM: That’s the truth. How do you feel the Titans compare with some of the other teams you’ve been with from a locker room and coaching perspective?
FB: I feel like this locker room is very similar to what I experienced in Denver. It’s a team-first atmosphere. It’s a tight knit group. It’s a family oriented team. Everybody treats you like a brother. I feel like everybody here displays a tremendous amount of respect. I know they have my back. We’re playing for one another here. That’s what I love about this team. We have a clear group of leaders and everybody else just follows suit. When it’s time to lead, that’s what they do. When it’s time to follow, we do that as well. We have a lot of energy within the group. Coach [Mike] Vrabel has developed that kind of atmosphere. We’re a hard nosed football team that loves to work. We stay conditioned. We’re out here battling every single day.
JM: That’s great. A lot of Titans fans probably don’t realize this, but you know Jeffery Simmons pretty well. You both attended Mississippi State. What’s your best Simmons story from his Mississippi State days?
FB: I love Jeff, man (laughs). I’m a bit older than him. I was basically coming out when he was coming in. I can still think of my best Jeffery Simmons story, though. I remember watching one of his high school games when we had all the recruits coming in and what not. We were watching his highlights. I was like, “Damn, who is this kid?” (laughs). He reminded me of Fletcher Cox so much. Is he really this big? (laughs). I remember watching the first two plays on tape. He just demolished the poor running back, man (laughs). I knew he was the real deal the first time I saw him on campus. He just kept getting better and better. That’s what I love about him. He’s a hard nosed guy. He’s a grinder. He’s so tough and strong. He’s worked his tail off to get to this point. He’s only gonna get better and better. That’s what I love about him.
JM: That’s a terrific story. Is there a receiver you’re looking forward to being teammates with and learning from?
FB: We have a great group of guys. Julio Jones was the last addition. I already learned so much from him after spending just a week or two with him when he first came in. We’ve been chopping it up and conversing about certain routes. We’ve been talking about running the routes in this offense. We talked about what type of looks we may get from the defense.
When A.J. Brown was coming out of Starkville, even though he ended up at Ole Miss, I know him and I’ve spoken with him a bunch of times in the past. I stayed in touch with him a little bit while he was at Ole Miss. That’s why those two guys definitely come to mind. I played with Josh Reynolds in Los Angeles. I have to give him a shout out as well. We’re looking forward to reuniting as well. I love being on the same team with those three guys right there. We all know what Julio has done and accomplished in this league. We can’t wait to play with him. A.J. and I, we’re from the same state. That’s exciting for us. I’ve been constantly exchanging messages with both of those guys. I’m trying to get ahead of the game. We all want to make a difference on this team.
JM: That’s terrific stuff. I’ve really appreciated your time today, Fred. In closing, what do your goals look like for these next few weeks?
FB: I’ve always had the same goals ever since I came out as an undrafted free agent. I’m trying to make the team. I wanna make big plays in Nashville. I’m going to prove to the coaches that I’m a versatile player. I can play every position. I’m trying to nail down a job here. Whatever role they find for me, I’m going to commit myself to it. I’m gonna do that to the best of my ability. It doesn’t matter if they want me to play in the slot, the Z position, special teams or whatever — I’m going to put my mind to it. I’m gonna do what I have to do to make this team. We’ll take it from there.