Omar Brown and his younger brothers, Kory Brown and Evan McKelvey are football players who share a bond for one position. For most of their playing careers, the brothers have been safeties for their respective teams on the prep, collegiate and — at least in Omar Brown's case — NFL levels.
"It's just something we fell in love with," said Brown, a Ravens undrafted rookie. "We don't really talk about it, but I haven't heard too much about three brothers playing safety. It's pretty unusual."
The 24-year-old Brown took a positive step in his quest to make the team's 53-man roster with his performance in Thursday night's 31-17 win against the Atlanta Falcons in the preseason opener for both squads. He recorded one interception, two fumble recoveries and two tackles in the second half — gaining the attention of Ravens coach John Harbaugh.
"[We didn't know a lot about him coming in," Harbaugh said. "We knew he was a good player. There wasn't much buzz about him in the draft, obviously, but all of a sudden, we came out of the first couple of days, even in the spring, and he's a guy that was around the ball. [Secondary coach] Teryl Austin says it all the time: 'If you want to find Omar, look for the ball. He'll be around it.' And it was good to see it show up in the game the same way. Here's another guy that's making a real good, strong push."
The Ravens game wasn't broadcast on television at Marshall University where McKelvey is making the transition from safety to outside linebacker. But McKelvey still got wind of his older brother's outing from his teammates.
"Every time Omar does something good, I can't hear enough about it from the guys at my school," said McKelvey, the youngest of the brothers at 21 . "I've already heard about the game 50 times already. I haven't talked to him yet about the game, but I'm pretty sure that when I do talk to him about the game, it's going to be about bragging about what he did."
McKelvey — who adopted his mother's maiden name — and both of his brothers didn't begin playing safety until after trying a few other positions. Omar Brown and McKelvey moved from cornerback to safety while playing at Berkeley High School in South Carolina. Kory Brown made the switch at East Central Community College in Decatur, Miss.
All three brothers share similar physical attributes that lend to playing safety. All have speed and good size (Omar Brown is listed at 5-foot-11 and 195 pounds, Kory Brown is 6-0 and 207 pounds and McKelvey is 6-1 and 198 pounds. But each brother brings different strengths.
"Omar has the size, speed and range," said Kory Brown, 22. "He just knows everything pretty much. Evan has the size and speed, and I think that's why they moved him down to [outside linebacker]. Me, I'm the most physical one of them."
Added Omar Brown: "They're a lot bigger than I am. They're downhill, in-the-box types. I'm more of a deep ball-type safety."
Because all three have played safety, someone inevitably asks which brother is better. The elder Brown points out that he was the All-Lowcountry defensive back of the year in his senior year of high school. The younger Brown asserts that he is the big hitter of the group. And McKelvey notes that he is the only one to graduate high school with a state championship.
McKelvey remembers filling in at running back for the scout team when he and Omar Brown were on the same varsity squad.
"One time, he was playing safety, and my coach had me do a practice play where I had to run over Omar," he said . "So the coach gave me the ball, and I forgot the whole thing about trying to run him over. So when I tried to run him over, he kind of ran me over, and ever since then, it's been a competition."
As the eldest, Omar Brown is the first to go to a bowl game and the first to make the leap to the NFL. Brown said he's elated at his showing against the Falcons, but he also understands that there are three more games in the preseason and that he is competing for a spot in a crowded safety corps.
"I'm the type of guy that can handle the success along with the failures," he said. "I've already put it behind me, and I know that I'm going to have to keep going and improving because I think consistency is one way you can remain in this league."
Brown's foray is being closely monitored by his brothers, who are confident he will find a place either with the Ravens or another NFL franchise.
"I think he'll respond very well," Kory Brown said. "He's used to rising up the depth chart. At Marshall, he was behind someone, but eventually, he worked his way into a starting position. But this is a little different because it is the NFL and the Ravens have veterans like Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard that have been there for many years. He can learn from them and get better as the process goes on."
Added McKelvey: "I already know that he wants it more than anybody could ever want to play in the NFL. That was his dream growing up. Whatever he's got to do to get the job, he will do. I know there's competition, but he will do what he's got to do to get the job done."