WR Vincent Brown (round three, 2011) gracefully handles his status as an emerging NFL star. He's not even a starter yet, but that could quickly change.
A half hour after practice ended Sunday night, Brown was the last Charger to finish signing autographs. Finally, he headed to the locker room to enjoy a few hours off. Then five more children and a few adults swarmed him with Sharpie pens in hand. Brown stopped, smiled and graciously fulfilled their requests. Then he took time for the media.
Fans and media alike in San Diego enjoy their relationship with Brown, which goes back to his playing days at San Diego State. The Chargers typically introduce drafted players in a press conference the following day. Thirty minutes after Brown's name was called last year, he knocked on the door of the Chargers' dilapidated media trailer to make himself available for questions.
There were high hopes that Brown would make an immediate impact. He came to the Chargers as the third all-time leading receiver in SDSU history with 209 catches for 3,110 yards.
Brown missed offseason workouts a year ago because of the lockout. He then suffered a hamstring injury early in training camp and wasn't able to participate in the majority of practices. Brown wasn't even on the game-day active roster for the first two weeks of the season. Through Week 8, he only had two receptions for 26 yards.
“It was [a difficult time],” Brown said. “I'm not a person who likes to be hurt at all. I don't like not being able to play football. I have been doing this since I was a little kid. Just not being able to be out there with the guys, play and learn -- especially on this level -- was tough for me.”
In Week 9, Brown had four receptions for 79 yards against the Packers. The next week he had five receptions for 97 yards. That included a 30-yard TD when he out-leaped two Raider defenders flanked on both sides of him. His final 2011 numbers: 19 catches for 329 yards and 2 TDs.
Last Thursday, Brown again demonstrated his willingness to fight for the ball when he out-jumped Packers CB Casey Hayward for a 36-yard reception. Two plays later, Brown found the end zone with a 27-yard catch and run.
“It's just something that has always been with me,” Brown said about fighting defenders for the ball. “It's knowing that you have to make plays. When the ball is up in the air, that is your opportunity. You have to fight for it.”
Brown led all receivers in Thursday's preseason opener with four receptions for 81 yards. WR Robert Meachem (free agent, Saints) is expected to be a starter opposite WR Malcom Floyd. Meachem has missed practices and didn't play against the Packers. This leaves many wondering if Brown could win the starting job.
Brown has frequently deflected questions about the possibility that he could start ahead of Meachem. “I'm just trying to go out there and play,” Brown said. “We have a number of great athletes on this team who can play.”
Of course, he does want to start. No mystery there. “Yeah,” he said. “Everybody wants to be a starter. If you don't want to be a starter then I don't know [why you're playing]. I am just trying to come in a get my opportunity to do whatever role they want me to do and just play ball.”