Arena Football League Hall of Fame offensive specialist Eddie Brown played 10 illustrious seasons for the Albany/Indiana Firebirds, putting up impressive numbers as a receiver and return specialist. Brown, now head coach of Miami Northwestern high school football team, accumulated 950 receptions for 12,726 yards and 303 touchdowns, in addition to his eight KR/missed field goal return touchdowns, according to arenafootball.com.
Brown put up over 1,100 receiving yards in seven of his 10 seasons, while capturing the 1994 AFL Most Valuable Player award as a rookie (101 catches, 1,324 yards, 44 TDs). The three-time First Team All-Arena selection, one-time Second Team All-Arena selection and two-time AFL Offensive Player of the Year winner was named #1 on the AFL’s 20 Greatest Players list in 2006.
Brown joined Barry Wagner, George LaFrance, Hunkie Cooper, Sylvester Bembery, Kurt Warner, Stevie Thomas, Sam Hernandez, Darren Arbet and Gene Nudo in the 2011 Arena Football Hall of Fame class.
To top off his long list of Arena Football accomplishments, Brown helped lead his Firebirds to the ArenaBowl XIII championship in 1999. He caught four touchdown passes in the Firebirds’ 59-48 victory over the Orlando Predators, being named the game’s Most Valuable Player.
This afternoon the NJCAA and AFL Hall of Famer took the time to speak with us about his AFL career, coaching career and his relationship with his son––Pittsburgh Steelers WR Antonio Brown:
All-Out Blitz: You had an illustrious 10 seasons in the Arena Football League. What is your proudest moment over your AFL career?
Eddie Brown: “I think my proudest moment was when we won the championship in 1999. I think I was at the top of my game that whole year. Just my preparation and everything I had done to help my team. I had a great group of guys that I played with. They weren’t just guys I played football with, we were all really good friends and we hung out together. So it was just a great time to go to practice and I looked forward to being with those guys. That’s something that I remember really well.”
AOB: When the AFL was celebrating their 20th anniversary (in 2006) you were named one of the league’s top players of all-time. What was it liked to be named one of the best player’s in league history?
Brown: “When you grow up as a kid you set yourself up with what you want to accomplish and be recognized for. That was not one of my goals, ever. So to achieve that and be recognized for that, I would say I’m still wowed about it today. I just wanted an opportunity to play football. So to be considered one of the best among my peers, I’m still moved by it today.”
AOB: Arena football is a much different style of play, what would you say the biggest adjustment was from college to the AFL?
Brown: “Just the speed of the game. Everything happened so much quicker. Understanding how to run your routes and adjust to the angles of the field. I think that was the biggest adjustment because with the big field you could just run anywhere. It was more strategic in the arena league than it was on the outdoor fields. So more mental preparation went into having success in the indoor game.”
AOB: During your playing career, what players and/or coaches had the biggest impact on your success?
Brown: “First, coach (Mike) Hohensee, who was my first coach. I’m a loyal guy, and when you get a guy who gives you the opportunity to do something, there’s a lot of loyalty that comes with that. From my perspective I think coach Hohensee was huge, and also Mike Perez, who was my first quarterback. He taught my how to prepare, how to watch and break down film. He helped me develop the preparation part of my game. Coach Dailey was also a great teacher for me. All those guys have contributed to me having success over the years with my preparation and my performance. The skills they taught me were very helpful.”
AOB: Upon your retirement from the game you started getting into coaching. What went behind your decision to get into coaching?
Brown: “What made me want to get into the coaching world was there was a coach that saved my life. So going into coaching was my way of giving back, because there were coaches that gave me opportunities that I would not have had. They picked me up from school and did things for me that allowed me to be successful and accomplish a lot of the goals that I had set for my life as a kid. Without those coaches doing those things to help me, I don’t know where I would have been.”
AOB: So as a coach (hired by Miami Northwestern in February 2014) in high school, is that what you would say is your biggest priority in coaching young kids?
Brown: “Yes, my biggest priority is high school. I definitely want to work with our youth. I get very passionate about it and I really enjoy being interactive with them. To watch them grow and develop from boys to men and know that you’ve impacted their lives in a positive way, I think that’s my lottery.”
AOB: Your son, Antonio, is the Pittsburgh Steelers’ top receiver. Does he ever come to you for advice on improving his game?
Brown: “All the time (laughs). He comes to me all the time. He’s a perfectionist like I am, so he always wants to get better and he’s always open for different things that he can do so that he can continue to get better. We were just having a conversation last week about what he can do to get better. So that’s always an ongoing thing. He’s a very driven young man.”
AOB: Considering he’s a receiver and returner just as you were during your career, do you think that you playing those positions had an impact on him as a young kid?
Brown: “Yeah I definitely think that. Him watching me do the things I was able to do inspired him not to just do it but to do better than what I was able to do during my career. And I was the same way with my father. So, when you can do that it just keeps the generations going and allows the family to continue to grow. But it also instills the discipline, drive and work ethic that keeps the family going strong.”
AOB: Great, I just have one last question for you. Do you continue to keep up with the AFL? And, if so, do you have any predictions for this year’s ArenaBowl?
Brown: “I follow it. I believe Jacksonville will make a run again. I think Kevin Guy in Arizona is doing an awesome job, I can remember playing against him and I’ve seen a lot of tenacity that he brought from his playing days to coaching. So he’s been doing a lot of great things (with the Rattlers). Coach Moss is doing a great job in Jacksonville. I don’t know who will win the championship, but I’m just so proud seeing the arena league back up and going strong. Jerry Kurz (the AFL Commissioner) is doing a really great job at keeping it going, and not letting all the hard work that a lot of the guys have put in just go down the drain. Everybody affiliated is doing an awesome job of holding the pride and dignity of the Arena Football League. All the coaches are doing a nice job at representing the league. I don’t know who will win it this year, but I promise you I will be watching.”
AOB: Thank you very much for taking the time for talking with us today, Mr. Brown.
Brown as player: Albany/Indiana Firebirds 1994-2003
Brown as a coach: Shaker High School (JV WR coach), Ben Davis HS (WR coach 2006), Fort Wayne Fusion (AF2; 2007),Wabash College (Assistant coach; 2007-08), Fort Scott Community College (Assistant coach; 2009-10), Wyandotte HS (head coach; 2011-2013), Miami Northwestern HS (head coach; 2014-present).
You can follow Eddie Brown on Twitter: @HCEBrown