Ravens rookie Arthur Brown finds peaceful balance with football
By By Aaron Wilson and The Baltimore Sun
Aug 10, 2013 | 9:35 PM
The uplifting sounds of gospel music provide Ravens rookie inside linebacker Arthur Brown a release from the grind of football.
The second-round draft pick from Kansas State is bespectacled and soft-spoken, cultivating a professorial look off the field as he frequently wears a tie, slacks and dress shoes. During his spare time, the 23-year-old can be found playing the piano or whipping up his favorite meal of salmon and sweet potatoes.
Brown's personality away from the game, though, is a contrast to his aggressive nature on the field.
"If you don't know Arthur and see him on the field, you would think he's an absolute maniac," said Ravens rookie outside linebacker Meshak Williams, Brown's former Kansas State teammate. "Arthur is a good person, very spiritual and one of the best friends I ever had. When he plays football, he just changes his personality. He flies around and brings an intensity to the whole defense."
As much as Brown expresses his love for football, where he embraces contact and delivers punishing hits, he has found a way to strike a balance between the sport and other parts of his life.
"I love music and I love to sing out loud," Brown said. "Really just speaking to gospel, it's the content of what's being spoken. It's all about my faith. It gives me inspiration, it gives me peace.
"There's a time to relax and unwind, and there's a time to play football. I'm somebody that's very instinctive out there. I may not show it off the field, but I definitely have a lot of passion for the game."
At a compact 6 feet, 235 pounds, Brown plays with outstanding leverage and uncoils his body to create punishing impacts.
A resounding shoulder blow from Brown recently sent Ravens rookie fullback Kyle Juszczyk reeling off his feet into the backfield during an isolation play.
"Arthur understands the mentality he needs to have when he's playing on the field," said Arthur Brown, Brown's father. "He's able to turn that off and on at the perfect time. He's always been very reserved until you get to know him and then he'll open up. He's like a gentle giant. He has a real free heart, a gentle spirit, but he can be pretty aggressive in any competitive situation."
Growing up in Wichita, Kan., Brown played on a travel football team in the eighth grade.
He once delivered a tackle so fierce that he injured an older opposing running back. The incident frightened Brown's mother enough that she initially wanted him to stop playing.
"Arthur ended up hurting one of the kids, and it was a situation that literally scared my wife," Brown's father said. "She threatened to make him quit. Even in elementary school, he was always a lot bigger than the kids his age. He was always very, very strong. He always knew he wanted to play football and had a relentless work ethic."
Brown was a Parade Magazine All-America selection in high school at Wichita East. Both he and his brother, Philadelphia Eagles running back Bryce Brown, were blue-chip recruits who garnered scholarship offers from virtually every top program in the nation.
When Brown chose Miami, it was his first extended time away from home. It marks the only time in his football career he hasn't thrived. In two seasons for the Hurricanes, Brown didn't earn a starting job. He ultimately transferred to Kansas State to be closer to home, redshirting for a season under NCAA transfer rules.
"The choice to transfer was spearheaded by his father," said Brian Butler, the Brown brothers' longtime mentor and personal coach. "Sometimes in college, if you're an out-of-state player and they have strong in-state players, you can get caught up in politics. It was hard to get Arthur to leave Miami because Arthur's not a quitter.
"It wasn't just about football. It was much different for him socially. He was used to growing up with people with the same set of values and habits. Miami is a very fast-paced place."
At Kansas State, Brown's parents became a fixture at practices and games. And he liked the structure and discipline provided by Kansas State coach Bill Snyder.
"The distance from my parents was tough on me at Miami," Brown said. "It was a different situation. Fortunately, I made the decision to go back home and it worked out great."
In two seasons at Kansas State, Brown was a two-time captain who contributed 201 tackles, three sacks and three interceptions. Last season, he was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.
Now in the NFL, Brown is optimistic that the skills that allowed him to excel in college — including intercepting and sacking Washington Redskins star quarterback Robert Griffin III when he was a Heisman Trophy winner at Baylor — will make him successful with the Ravens.
Brown has legitimate sideline to sideline range with 4.58 speed in the 40-yard dash, rivaling running backs' speed.
What Brown lacks is ideal size for a linebacker, which hasn't affected him in the NFL.
"I've never considered myself to be small," Brown said. "I've never felt small amongst a group of men. It's about heart and that's what you have to take into account. That's what keeps me driving, keeps me moving."
Brown hasn't emphasized getting bigger, reporting to training camp at roughly 232 pounds.
"Arthur has weighed pretty much the same since the ninth grade," Butler said. "Arthur is a meticulous eater who could easily be 250 pounds if he wanted. He's fast and his endurance doesn't stop. He won't stop until somebody is down on the ground."
As a weakside inside linebacker in the Ravens' 3-4 scheme, Brown's game is based on speed more than bulk. Playing behind imposing defensive linemen like Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, Brown is shielded from taking on blocks so he can chase down running backs.
"If you talk to defensive coordinators schooled in the 3-4, they'll tell you inside linebacker is not a position that requires you to be 6-3, 250 pounds anymore," said Louis Riddick, an ESPN analyst and former Philadelphia Eagles director of pro personnel. "The Ravens have it designed so the nose guards and other defensive linemen clog it up and make everything bounce wide. Arthur Brown is tailor-made for that defense.
"Nobody got downhill faster or got off blocks with better leverage and attacked better in the Big 12 than Arthur Brown. The Ravens have some horses upfront, so Arthur should be able to stay as clean as possible. He's more than equipped to shed, get off the block and go make a lot of tackles."
Brown got off to a relatively quiet start during the Ravens' 44-16 preseason victory Thursday night over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Although he finished with no tackles, Brown didn't look out of place on the field as he shadowed receivers.
Brown is listed behind inside linebackers Daryl Smith and Josh Bynes on the depth chart, which follows the Ravens' tradition of making rookies earn a starting job regardless of their draft status. He promptly entered the game during the first defensive series against Tampa Bay.
When the Ravens drafted Brown, they traded three draft picks to the Seattle Seahawks to move up six spots to acquire him with the 56th overall selection. He's signed to a four-year, $3.554 million contract that includes a $964,896 signing bonus.
Brown is intent on giving the Ravens a major return on their investment.
"My rookie year, I want to compete to be a starter," Brown said. "I'm extremely ambitious. My biggest goal right now is grasping and having a great understanding of the defensive scheme and philosophy. I just want to play like a machine."
Acquired: Rookie second-round draft pick selected by the Ravens 56th overall in April.
Career stats: 218 tackles, three sacks, three interceptions, two fumble recoveries and six pass deflections
Honors: All-America selection named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2012 and Big East Defensive Newcomer of the Year in 2011.
Personal: His brother, Bryce Brown, plays running back for the Philadelphia Eagles. ... Arthur Brown graduated with a degree in social sciences from Kansas State.
Quotable: "Arthur Brown is a physical, downhill guy who can run," former Denver Broncos general manager Ted Sundquist said. "He's compact and tough, and should give the Ravens a lot of flexibility as an all-around linebacker."