Bills GM Buddy Nix assured at the close of day two that a fourth quarterback would be added to the roster before training camp. Those words were answered with actions just a day later with Buffalo taking Troy quarterback
Brown, as it turns out, was a player the Bills had earmarked before the draft even got underway.
“We kind of had this guy in mind the whole time,” said Bills GM Buddy Nix. “We wanted a developmental guy. A guy that we could be working with and bringing him along and letting him develop.”
For Brown it was a bit of a star crossed college career. After consistent playing time at Richmond became less and less likely he transferred to Troy, where after sitting out the 2007 season, he finally stepped back on the field in game six of the 2008 campaign. And when he did Brown never left the lineup earning Sun Belt Conference Newcomer of the Year honors.
Brown only built on his breakout season in 2009 throwing for over 4,200 yards while completing more than 63 percent of his passes with 23 touchdowns and just nine interceptions. It was the greatest single season by a quarterback in Sun Belt Conference history, which led to Conference Player of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year honors.
Part of Brown’s lofty figures stems from Troy’s spread offense as only three college quarterbacks attempted more passes than Brown in 2009. Nevertheless, Brown proved he has the physical traits to be successful at the NFL level.
“We looked extensively at him,” said head coach Chan Gailey. “He has a very good arm, he throws a tight spiral, he played in a wide open offense so he had an opportunity to throw the ball a great deal. He has excellent size and has enough mobility. When we visited with him in our room in Indianapolis he came across as a very intelligent guy. He was a good looking young prospect to us.”
Brown suspected Buffalo as a possible destination based on what he was hearing from people close to him and his conversations with the Bills prior to the draft.
“I’ve spoken with a couple of the guys from Buffalo, so I knew that they were interested and I assumed they’d take a quarterback somewhere in the draft,” said Brown. “So I was hoping they would take me here at the end. And finally they did, so I was excited.”
What helped to put Brown more squarely on the radar of NFL clubs was his performance in the GMAC Bowl again Dan LeFevour and Central Michigan. Though Troy lost in overtime 44-41, the back and forth affair put Brown’s skill set and ability to erase deficits on display. He finished the game 31-56 for 386 yards and a touchdown.
“I do think that game helped me out a lot,” he said. “I think just coming from Troy, a team from the Sun Belt Conference, I don’t get a lot of the recognition that a lot of other players do, just because we don’t get covered by the national media as much. So, to have a big-time bowl game and to have the whole nation watching was important for me. And I knew that going in. Luckily I had a good game and I played well.”
As a result of that performance, Brown was added to the invitee list for the NFL combine.
Still a total of 10 quarterbacks came off the board before Brown, including Florida Atlantic’s Rusty Smith from his own conference. It has Brown headed to Buffalo with a chip on his shoulder.
“There was one guy who came from the same conference as me that went to the Titans, that is my hometown team,” said Brown from his Nashville home. “That for sure adds motivation. I was the Player of the Year this year in the conference, and he got picked ahead of me. Not just him. I was the eleventh quarterback taken. That’s nine or 10 other guys that people are saying are better than me. You know, it burns a little bit and gives me some motivation. I’ll definitely take it and use it.”
And though Brown is viewed as a developmental quarterback by the Bills, Gailey is not going to deprive the rookie of competing with the other three quarterbacks on Buffalo’s roster for the starting job.
“Everybody that walks on that football field has a chance,” Gailey said. “I don’t care if it’s one of these guys we’re trying to sign as a free agent, they’ve got a chance and if you don’t go by that philosophy then to me you’re short changing these guys that you’re signing and drafting. You have to give them an opportunity to win a job.”