Rams rookie hopes to change his image

Monday, May 14, 2012

Linebacker Sammy Brown didn't have unrealistic expectations entering the draft. His agent told him he was projected to go somewhere in rounds 5 to 7. So Brown didn't even watch day 1 of the draft when the first-rounders were selected. On day 2, when the second and third rounds were picked, he took his girlfriend out to dinner.

He started day 3 in front of the television, waiting for his name to be called. But as the fourth and fifth rounds went by, and the picks dwindled in the sixth round, Brown's frustration mounted.

"When it got to the sixth and seventh round, I just said, 'Man, I don't even want to watch it no more,' " Brown said. "I was mad. I see other people going. I see them picking punters, kickers. Am I that sorry? What have I got to do?"

As he told the story at Rams rookie minicamp, just two weeks after the draft, you could hear Brown's voice rising and feel the emotion in his voice.

"Man, I just want to come out here and give my best the best I can," Brown said.

Apparently, "giving his best" didn't always happen at the University of Houston. Scouts knew about it, coaches knew about it, and that might explain why Brown went undrafted signing with St. Louis as a rookie free agent.

Brown is aware of the criticism.

"They say I didn't have enough effort," Brown said. "I agree with it. I didn't go hard every play. But that's over with. I'm just trying to learn this system and do the best I can."

In two seasons with Houston after transferring from the junior-college ranks, Brown's numbers were eye-opening. In 2010, he registered 76 tackles and 7 sacks and led Conference USA in tackles for loss (20). As a senior in 2011, he had 93 tackles and a league-leading 13 sacks, and led the nation with 30 tackles for loss.

Who knows what his numbers would've been had he shown effort on every play?

"I might have 50 tackles for loss, and 20 sacks," Brown said, laughing at himself. "You never know, I might have a record."

At Houston, the Cougars played a 3-4 front with Brown playing as a rush linebacker on the outside. The Rams play a 4-3, so there may not be as many pass-rushing opportunities for Brown, who lined up at strongside linebacker at the Rams' rookie minicamp over the weekend.

When asked about Brown, coach Jeff Fisher made it clear there is one and only one acceptable playing speed with the Rams.

"There's only one way we play on defense," Fisher said. "And if you're not going to the football full speed, you don't take plays in the defense or you don't step on the field. So I would like to think those days are behind him. He's very talented, very athletic and he was very productive at times."

Fisher emphasized the words at times in his answer.

"So we feel like we'll make him a 100 percent effort player," Fisher concluded.

Physically, Brown appears to have what it takes to succeed at the NFL level. He has good size at 6-2, 242. At Houston's pro day earlier this spring, he ran a 4.63 in the 40 on a bad hamstring. His vertical leap was 37 inches, again very good for his size and position.

He does have some experience in a 4-3, because he played outside linebacker, albeit on the weak side, at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College for two seasons.

Brown, who turned 22 last month, has had his share of ups and downs reaching this point in his football career. At age 14 and in the eighth grade, the native of Wiggins, Miss., lost his mother, Monica Bostic, to kidney disease. After his mother's death, Brown lived with an aunt.

"It was tough," Brown said. "I felt like it was me against the world."

In high school, some recruiters probably overlooked him entirely because he played only basketball not football as a junior. Even after a strong senior season of football at Stone County High, Brown was forced to go the junior college route because he never took an SAT or ACT college entrance exam.

Lots of four-year schools showed interest after Brown's two seasons in junior college, but he accepted the Houston Cougars' offer on his first recruiting visit.

"I was scared of airplanes back then, so I didn't take any more visits," Brown said.

Two years later, Brown found himself making pre-draft visits to Oakland and Philadelphia and to the Houston Texans' local pro day. After going undrafted, Brown said he had plenty of options.

"A lot of teams were calling me at the end of the draft," he said. "I know St. Louis didn't have that many linebackers."

So here he is, playing with a chip on his shoulder and hoping to make the entire league look silly for passing on him in the draft.

"I feel like I haven't accomplished what I want to accomplish yet," Brown said. "I want to be the best. And now is my time.

"In junior college, I would have the best numbers and they'd say I wasn't this. In college (at Houston), I had the best numbers, and they still said I can't do this. Now, I've got a chance to show everybody what I can do. This is the big leagues. Now, if I have numbers, you can't say nothing."