There aren't too many guys who would take on Brian Urlacher. But when it came to pranks at Bears training camp, Alex Brown could hold his own.
The former defensive lineman spoke to RedEye about which essentials to bring, the best pranksters in camp and what would earn a player an unscheduled trip to the cold tub.
What are the must-have for training camp?
Oh man. [Pauses.] Probably an egg crate to go on the bed. It makes the bed a little softer. You put it under your sheet. It's an egg crate. At least that's what I think it's called. It's long, it goes on the bed, and then you put your sheet over it and it makes the bed softer. You gotta have one of those.
Because you have to sleep. Sleep is one of the biggest things at training camp. You have to make sure you get a good night's rest, because that long day is coming, and it's coming fast.
For me, I needed something to kind of get me away from football for two or three hours throughout the night. I could watch TV or watch a movie and take myself out of it. Some guys didn't even bring a TV. They're at camp, and for those 16 or 20 days or whatever, they're just engulfed with camp. That was kind of hard for me. I still wanted to get my mind out somehow, and movies were a good way for me to do that.
What else that the younger guys might not know to bring?
Oh! Actually, they may not know to bring a multi-outlet. Because they usually only have one outlet in the room. Maybe two. But one's across the room. So you need an oulet so you can plug in your TV, your VCR, your cellphone, all that stuff. So you're going to need an extended outlet. You have to get that.
Hunter Hillenmeyer and Charles Tillman also talked about bringing aluminum foil to black out the windows.
You know what? That's something I never did. But yeah, a lot of guys did that. I never did that, but I did see a lot of guys doing that. I would lose track of time, so my biggest thing was when my alarm didn't work I would rely on the sun. When the sun hit me, I knew it was time to get up.
Do you have any favorite veteran tricks that you took to doing?
I always put the beds together. You get two double beds and put them together. Or when we went down to Olivet the beds were already put together. So my biggest thing was just making sure I had my egg crate, a huge pillow and a comfortable chair to sit on. Because if you don't, there's not a chair in the room. so you either have to sit on the bed where there's zero back support, or you lay down. And sometimes, I don't want to lay down or sit on my bed – I want to sit in a chair. So get a chair.
So what all is in this room? A bed and two outlets? Is that it?
A double bed that's put together. Two outlets. One desk you can use for your TV and all your other stuff. And then you have a closet. That's it. It's awful, honestly. [Laughs.] But it's training camp. That's what training camp is about. It's not about being comfortable. You sleep in the room, and when you get out, it's football. Everything's about football. 90 percent of what you do is going to be outside of that room, just learning football and trying to get better at football.
How's the food in training camp?
The food is excellent. It was good because we have a lot of different food there. You can get stir fry. You can get fried food if you want. [Strength and conditioning coach] Rusty Jones wouldn't allow us to, but he'd have it available for some of the skinny guys who didn't have issues with their weight.
But you could also go off campus to get some food as long as you were back to make curfew or make meetings in time or something like that.
What about weight loss?
I think you lose some weight. A lot of it's water weight. I would weigh myself before practice and weigh 256, and after practice I'm down to 243 or 245 because it's just hot out there and you're sweating constantly. But you didn't necessarily lose 10 pounds. You just lost a lot of water weight. And that means you need to drink, because you're going to go do the same exact thing tomorrow when practice comes around.
Who were the best pranksters in camp?
I would just hide around a corner and scare somebody, creep up around and scare them, but Peanut [Tillman] is probably the guy. Peanut is the guy to pull a prank on somebody. Not necessarily just at training camp. But we would jump people. We would go into [Brian] Urlacher's room, because he had a great day at practice and he was talking shit to us, and there'd be like five of us, and we'd go into his room and just hold him down so he can't move. There's nothing more degrading than being held down where you can't move and you have to submit, like, "OK, I'm sorry." And to make him apologize for no reason at all, but just because we could do it.
How many guys does it take to hold Urlacher down?
I mean, we're talking about some big guys. Urlacher's a big dude, but you get four or five guys like us, and everybody gets a limb, he's done. But if he grabs one of us, if he grabs a little guy, then we might be in trouble and we might have to back off. But he was in bed most of the time by 10 o'clock, so we had to get him early. Right after meetings.
But it was fun. We had fun doing everything. Peanut's probably the biggest prankster. Double A [Anthony Adams] would probably get in a little on that, but Double A was more just funny than a prankster. But Peanut would wait in your room and scare the hell out of you. He'd do that. Not many people would do that. Because you might get punched, you know? [Laughs.]
Hillenmeyer said that Tommie Harris once rubbed Tiger Balm in his jock strap.
Oh yeah. That stuff, I didn't get into, because I didn't want anybody to do it to me. I didn't want to come in and have Icy Hot in my helmet. But I've seen people do it. Most of that stuff is done to rookies who don't act right, or they don't want to carry pads, or they don't want to do something, whatever it is. If I ask you to do it, you should do it. If not, we're not going to beat him up. We might tie him up and put him in the cold tub.
Tie him up and put him where?
Mark Bradley got that. Everybody got together and tied him up. But you had to kind of sneak up on Mark, because he was fast. He would take off running. So we had to sneak up on him and corner him, and yep, tied his hands up, tied his feet up, and put him in the cold tub for about 15, 20 minutes. He's freezing. He can't get out. So yeah, we would do that stuff. We wouldn't beat anybody up, but we'd make 'em pay that way.
Is there anything about training camp that you miss?
It would just be hanging out with the guys. Other than that, not really. I don't miss being sore. I don't miss having to go from 7 in the morning until 10 at night. I don't miss that. But football in general. If you love football, then you miss it.
But practices I loved. I had fun at practice. So it was just the soreness that came from it. The injuries. If you tweak something, you don't stop practice. You have to go through it and let it heal on the way. You can't stop. You have to keep going.
I hear a lot of people outside of football who want to change football. They want this to change, they want that to change. Most of those people haven't even played football. So football isn't for everybody. And I think that we try to make it be for everybody. If you can't play it, don't play it. But don't try to change the game that we absolutely love to do and we take full responsibility for when something happens. We know what could happen. But that's what makes us different, because we're willing to take that risk and go out there and put on a show anyway.
Jack M Silverstein is a RedEye special contributor. Say hey @readjack.
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