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NFL draft: Titans select Columbia's Zach Brown

As a three-sport standout at Wilde Lake High School from 2004 to 2007, Zach Brown stood head and shoulders above the competition as a senior, rushing for more than 1,500 yards and 20 touchdowns on the football field, winning a state title as a sprinter, and claiming a wrestling state championship.

So it seems fitting that Brown is now a Titan.

On Friday night at The Greene Turtle in Columbia, Brown watched with family, friends, former coaches and teammates as his name was called by the Tennessee Titans in the second round (52nd pick) of the 2012 NFL draft.

Moments before former Titans' great Eddie George announced the pick in front of a podium at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, Brown's cell phone buzzed. As he spoke on the phone, presumably with a representative of the Titans, he smiled broadly with anticipation and wrapped his muscular arms around nearby friends and family.

Once the draft moved on to the 53rd pick, Brown walked out to the parking lot to discuss further details with his future employer before finally returning inside to celebrate the occasion.

"I like Tennessee. They have a good defense," said the 6-foot-2, 230-pound linebacker. "I've always liked their defense so, for me, I'm just ready to get there."

After a senior year at North Carolina in which he led the Tar Heels with 105 tackles, including 13.5 for a loss, Brown was projected by many analysts as a certain first-round pick. He was also a team MVP at UNC as a senior, played in the Senior Bowl and was named first-team All-ACC.

So, after sitting through Thursday night's first round without getting a phone call, Brown was understandably antsy when almost 20 names were called before his during Friday night's second round.

"It was nerve-wracking seeing everyone going before you," said Brown, who spent one season at Hargrave Military Academy after high school. "But now my mindset is just getting to where I'm going. Everybody that was passing me up, just to make them pay. Because in my head I'm one of the best linebackers."

Dozens of Brown's extended family members made the nearly 10-hour trip from South Carolina on a chartered bus, resulting in an impromptu family reunion.

"It's a special moment to share with them," said Brown, who signed autographs and posed for pictures  for more than an hour after being selected. "Now it's time to get going, to keep it moving. To play a career and not just a season."

When asked what he might do with his first NFL paycheck, Brown flashed his trademark smile and said that he would buy a bigger fish tank to house a shark.

And while he tried to keep the atmosphere light, Brown acknowledged that hearing his name called by an NFL team and seeing his face appear on the draft board was an overwhelming experience.

"I said I wasn't going to cry but, you know, everybody cries," he said. "You can't hold it in. It's a good moment, a good moment."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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