With the speed of lightning, much like the bolt on the helmet that is their logo, the NFL’s San Diego Chargers signed running back Donald Brown, a member of the Red Bank Catholic Class of 2005, to a three-year contract.
Brown was signed on March 11 at the onset of free agency. While several other teams expressed interest in the former UConn star, Brown “went with his gut,” and chose San Diego as his new professional and family home.
“At the end of the day, it was really a no-brainer to come here,” Brown said of the Chargers in a telephone interview from his home in Indiana. “Familiarity with some of the coaching staff, personnel staff and players on the team, along with it being a great place to live for my family helped make up my mind.”
Let’s start with the personnel staff. The Chargers general manager, Tom Telesco, who is ultimately responsible for selecting and shaping the team’s roster, was a former assistant GM for the Indianapolis Colts, Brown’s previous team. He was a part of the group that decided to draft Brown No. 27 overall, and the second running back in the 2009 NFL draft. Telesco’s feelings about the former Casey’s abilities as a player and qualities as a person, ran deep. Making the deal for the NCAA’s leading rusher from 2008 was the first for any 2014 free agent running back, ahead of other standouts such as Maurice Jones-Drew and Knowshon Moreno.
Then there are the people that you lace up with every Sunday and go to battle with. “I know (defensive end) Kendall Reyes from the University of Connecticut, and also played with (outside linebacker) Dwight Freeney in Indianapolis, and those are strong men of character and players you want to be on the same team with,” Brown said about two of his new teammates.
“Knowing a good part of the (offensive) system played a significant part in coming here,” Brown said. “I wanted to find a good fit and this is it.”
It’s also beneficial that he is familiar with some of the coaching staff and that they know of his strengths and capabilities. The Chargers tight end’s coach Pete Metzelaars was previously an offensive assistant on the Colts staff during Brown’s time in Indy, as was Frank Reich who was the QBs coach there, and now serves as San Diego’s offensive coordinator. It’s like the conundrum of chicken soup for the free agent soul: Does it help? It couldn’t hurt!
That all being said, is there room for the five-year veteran, who averaged more than 5 yards per carry during the 2013 season, in a Chargers backfield that already contains Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead?
“We’re going to be a three-headed monster,” Brown said when he was introduced at the Charger’s complex in San Diego. “That’s what we’re going to be. They are great backs and I respect the heck out of both of them. I’m excited to work with them and complement them the best that I can.”
The former No. 31, who will be sporting No. 34 for the Chargers – the number he wore in his college and Pop-Warner days – also was asked about the possibility of playing special teams. His intelligent, concise answer was wonderfully predictable for someone of Brown’s character and resolve. “Whatever they need me to do, that’s what I’m here for. I want to help this team, help this offense, help special teams any way I can to help win games.”
You get the very sense that Donald Brown is extremely at peace with his free agency decision on every level possible.
“A playoff caliber team with one of the best quarterbacks in the league,” as he put it, was attractive on a professional level for sure. But there were other considerations for the soon-to-be 27-year-old, married, father of a 1-year-old son. The novice surfer from Atlantic Highlands couldn’t help but flash his million-dollar smile when he talked about his new home.
“This is the most beautiful city in the United States. We’re ecstatic to be here, excited about the opportunity to be in San Diego.” Truth be told, with this new deal, Brown is showing off more of a $10.4 million smile that should last over the next three years. “Obviously, I am happy to be able to provide for my family, now and hopefully in the future.”
Speaking of the future, what lies ahead for Red Bank Catholic’s most prolific rusher at the end of this contract?
“I’d like to play maybe another year after that,” Brown said. “Obviously, health and production will be key factors weighing in on that decision, but it’s always been a goal of mine to play for nine seasons.”
When you factor in high school, plus college and Pop-Warner, it’s quite a body of work spanning almost 20 years. Brown and his family’s three-years in paradise – as one New Jersey fan characterized it – is going to fly by as quick as, well, lightning. Enjoy it while it lasts San Diego.