Billy Brown to play in East-West Shrine game
It has been an expanded statement first associated with Major League Baseball and now adopted by all the professional leagues. It says, “If you can play, they will find you.” Translated it means no matter how far from the mainstream any athlete is if he has the ability, competitiveness and work ethic, the professionals will find him.
One of those playing college football just out of the main stream is Shepherd’s Billy Brown.
Shepherd has steadily become a recognizable source of possible National Football League or Canadian Football League talent.
It’s still an NCAA Division II school that will never rival Ohio State, Michigan or Southern California for NFL-ready players, but Shepherd has sent players to NFL teams that have made rosters and contributed on playoff runs by their employer.
Billy Brown has caught the eye of NFL scouts, coaches and general managers.
First, his size. He’s a wide receiver who is 6-foot-4 and weighs about 240 pounds. Secondly, his hands and ability to make difficult catches in a crowd of defenders. Third, Brown plays every down. He doesn’t take plays off and he can block. Fourth, Brown can run well. An example would be in a game several years ago when an opponent recovered a fumble and was 10 yards ahead of Brown seeking a defensive touchdown against the Rams. Brown, with his hustle and speed, caught the opponent and prevented a score.
Brown can be bumped and jostled by defenders and still make catches — sometimes with one hand.
The “If you can play they will find you” adage applies to Brown because on Saturday, Jan. 21, he will be a member of the West squad in the annual East-West Shrine game, now being staged in St. Petersburg at Tropicana Field.
This year’s game has a 3 p.m. start and will be televised on the NFL Network.
The West squad has a total of five wide receivers, including Trey Griffey (Arizona), Jalen Robinette (Air Force), Gabe Marks (Washington State), Austin Carr (Northwestern) and Brown.
There are three quarterbacks throwing to the corps of wide receivers and they are Gunner Kiel (Cincinnati), Zach Terrell (Western Michigan) and Wes Lunt (Illinois).
The athletes know that the practices leading to Saturday’s game can be as important as the actual game itself.
NFL scouts, administrators and coaches line the sidelines and crowd into the stands at all the practices. They have stop watches, cameras, computers and cell phones with which to record any movement that catches their collective eyes.
Both the East and West squads are coached by NFL assistants with a head coach and 12 assistants all coming from teams that did not make the playoffs.
Also invited to the game was West Virginia offensive lineman Adam Pankey, a member of the East team.
The NFL doesn’t care if a player comes from a Division III school, Florida State, an NAIA school or Notre Dame. If he can play . . . and has favorable personal characteristics along with intelligence they will want him.
Billy Brown doesn’t have to score three touchdowns or catch eight passes to make a favorable impression.
What he does in practice and how he handles the advice and coaching from people he has never previously seen are vital impressions as to whether he will be getting drafted in April by the NFL.
His foot . . . and wide shoulders, catching hands and foot speed are in the NFL door.
And that door isn’t likely to be closed any time soon.