From A to B

 
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Antonio Brown Might Be A Diva, But He Earned It

A) Liberty City, Florida (1988)

An undersized kid from an impoverished neighborhood just north of Miami, young Antonio Brown had no one. He needed no one. He played for no one. It was just him, and he was all he needed.

His father, Eddie Brown, was a star in the Arena Football League during the 1990s and 2000s. Eddie wasn’t around much, but he was considered the greatest player in Arena League history.

His mother and stepfather couldn’t provide a suitable home life, so young Antonio was forced to live with friends and teammates. Sometimes, they slept in cars or on the street. Football and track were his only outlets, and they would eventually pay dividends.

Antonio attended Miami Norland High School where he was a two-time 6A all-state athlete. However, academic and personal struggles derailed his football path.

In 2006, Brown was denied by every major Division I program due to academics and off-the-field issues. At 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, the potential wasn’t worth the headache. He spent a year at North Carolina Tech Prep – yes, that’s a real school – where he played quarterback and threw for 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns in five games.

His prep school season earned him a scholarship at Florida International University the following year, but he was kicked out of school after an on-campus altercation with security just weeks into the semester.

Time and time again, it was Antonio Brown – the solo act – against the world.

Then, Central Michigan called. Taking a chance on the son of Arena League legend Eddie Brown couldn’t hurt. CMU didn’t offer Antonio a scholarship as a quarterback, but they encouraged him to try out as a walk-on at receiver, and he did.

In just three seasons at CMU, Brown set the school record for receptions (305), and he ranks top-three in yards (3,199) and touchdowns (22). Even then, an undersized receiver from the Mid-American Conference with off-the-field issues wasn’t a lock for the NFL Draft. No path from A to B is ever a straight line.

“It’s all about doing things people wouldn’t expect you to do while coming from a place they wouldn’t expect you to come from.” – Antonio Brown

He was a sixth-round pick by the Steelers (No. 195), and then he did this:

  • 7 Pro Bowls in 8 Seasons

  • 2X Reception Leader (2014, 2015)

  • 2X Receiving Yards Leader (2014, 2017)

  • Receiving Touchdowns Leader (2018)

B) The Best Receiver in the NFL (2019)

In the last decade, only Falcons’ WR Julio Jones has receiving numbers that come close to AB. I could fact-blast you with all of that info, or you can feel free to reply and debate me. It’s still not close.

And yet, this short-and-cocky, ball-hawking freak of nature continues to make headlines that a fiction writer couldn’t conjure up; from last year’s balcony incident (ESPN) to thefrostbitten feet in the cryotherapy chamber (The Ringer), and now the second grievance of the helmet dispute (Deadspin).

We’re at the end now, and I know what some of you are thinking. Honestly, I hate that I’m writing this story and indulging AB’s latest antics, but I have to because he is the news. That’s the thing about people (especially athletes)… No matter what we think, we should try to understand them before we judge them.

Today, AB stands alone in the latest batch of NFL receiver prima donnas – like Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, and Dez Bryant before him – but man, he’s must-see television and one of the greatest receivers of all-time.

An underdog is an underdog, even if they’re a little extra.

 
Jeff YoderAugust2019