NORMAN, Okla. — The Monday after the NFL combine, former Pro Bowl tackle Jammal Brown was on a plane to Los Angeles, where Orlando Brown Jr. was training. Jammal Brown (no relation) knew Orlando Brown had fallen into “a bad place” after flubbing the biggest job interview of his life.
“He was disappointed,” Jammal Brown said. “Disappointed in himself, embarrassed, angry — felt like he had let down everybody around him.”
The Sooners tackle with the NFL pedigree, the All-American who had protected Baker Mayfield‘s blind side for his entire historic career, had every reason to feel crushed.
First came the embarrassingly low 14 reps in the bench press, the fewest of any offensive lineman at the combine.
Then there was the 40-yard dash, which Brown ran in a combine-worst 5.85 seconds.
His 20-yard shuttle time of 5.38 seconds tied for the slowest of any player in Indianapolis. His 82-inch broad jump was the shortest of any player by a full 7 inches. And his vertical jump of 19.5 inches was 4 inches worse than any other offensive lineman.
Suddenly the prospect ESPN’s Todd McShay and other draft experts had as a first-round pick was tumbling down draft boards, causing many to wonder if Brown’s performance was the worst in combine history.
Brown arrived in Indianapolis for the NFL scouting combine knowing he wasn’t going to dazzle. But he had a plan. And if he stuck to it, he would leave with his pristine draft stock intact.
That all fell apart around the fourth rep on the 225-pound bench press.
Brown’s strategy had been to hold his breath through the first 10 repetitions of the bench press, then bang out the final eight or nine from there.
But whether it was nerves or pressure or both, Brown unintentionally started breathing after the fourth rep.
After that, everything for him spiraled.
“That completely messed me up,” Brown said. “I was shot after that.
“And it just snowballed from there.”
The same morning, UTEP guard Will Hernandez, with whom Brown had been training in California, put up 37 reps on the bench. As Hernandez’s day began to gain momentum, Brown knew his was about to get worse.
“He did the bench first. … And he was really upset because that was the one thing he was banking on to be average,” said Jammal Brown, himself an All-American at Oklahoma, who was a friend of Orlando’s father and has been a mentor to Orlando for years. “So to get on the biggest stage, and be banking on that to be the one thing to be average, but that finishes real low, and knowing going into the other stuff, that it’s not going to be the best. It’s like the rest of the day was just cloudy for him. He just couldn’t shake what happened in the bench and it just showed in everything else.”
The social media deluge began shortly thereafter. Orlando Brown Jr. got a derogatory tweet in German. Even Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger took a shot at him.
— Sam Ehlinger (@sehlinger3) March 12, 2018
Brown said he eventually had to get off Twitter because of “so many 12-year olds telling me they’re stronger than me.”
“Measurables are measurables, and that’s what the general managers and the head coaches and scouts use, and it’s understood — you can’t knock it,” Brown said. “You’ve got all these guys, they’ve run 4.9s and been successful. But you’ve also got guys that run 4.9s and been bad. I think I’m an unusual prospect, the way my film is and my unusual testing. Yeah, it’s a pretty big deficiency. But the film speaks for itself. Hopefully these NFL teams look at that and recognize who I am … and understand what I can do at the next level.”
Jammal Brown came to Orlando’s aid concerned about his well-being, but also aware that he’d have another chance to impress at Oklahoma’s pro day.
“Jammal, he just let me know, what happened, happened, that we had to move on, to get my mind right and to prepare and do what you have to do at pro day and show these people that you had been working,” Brown said.
Brown admits that the days following the combine were “a tough time.” Yet with Jammal’s encouragement, he said he quickly turned the humiliation of the combine “into fuel” to turn in a better performance at pro day on March 14. That’s exactly what he did, across the board. Brown ran the 40 in 5.63 seconds. He delivered 89 inches on the broad jump and 25 inches on the vertical jump.
And, he put up 18 reps on the bench.
Orlando Brown did 18 reps on the bench at his pro day after doing 14 at the NFL combine.
“It’s like, oh, how do you blow the biggest job interview in your life?” he said. “That’s not the case at all. These are the numbers that I was hitting before the combine. I didn’t do my best at the combine. My mentality was off. Hopefully, NFL teams, they recognize that.”
Time will tell if they do. And whether Brown’s pro day showing will quell — and more importantly, whether his college film will override — the concerns his combine debacle generated.
“I get it, I know they want to test the physical skills,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said. “What that guy is gifted at is playing tackle and playing football. Most important thing is that film. He can run whatever.”
Brown might never have to sprint 40 yards in an NFL game. But on top of everything else, the combine flop put Brown’s work ethic and makeup on trial, which could theoretically swing his draft stock as much as his upper-body strength.
Brown scoffs at suggestions he didn’t work hard enough preparing for Indianapolis in the wake of Oklahoma’s season-ending Rose Bowl loss to Georgia, noting his pro day numbers were what he’d been putting up before the combine. Those around him also note that Brown was taught the same training methods as Hernandez, who, thanks to his combine showing, now seems primed to be a high second-round pick.
With his father, the late Orlando “Zeus” Brown, having started 119 games for the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens, Brown said he hopes NFL teams recognize that he’s only begun to touch his own potential, especially physically.
“Hasn’t even been grazed yet,” Brown said. “A lot of guys have already peaked. I’m not even close.”
When he signed with Oklahoma, Brown weighed close to 400 pounds, with a body fat percentage he once estimated was close to 33 percent.
“He was a little boy when I was around his dad, just a fat kid waiting for dinner,” said Jammal Brown, who befriended Orlando Brown Sr. through a football camp in the Washington area.
Still out of shape, Orlando Brown Jr. redshirted that first season in Norman. But in 2015, he won the starting job at left tackle. In 2016, he was voted Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year. And last season, he became the pre-eminent left tackle in the game.
“From the time he got here until now, he’s a totally different guy,” said Oklahoma offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh. “He’s changed his body, and I think his body is going to continue to change as he continues to work. He was 400 pounds in high school. I think he’ll continue to change his body. Not so much lose weight but just change his body.”
Brown is still losing weight, though, too. He dropped another five pounds off his 6-foot-8 frame from the combine to his pro day, weighing in at 340 pounds. He said his goal is 325, which he hasn’t weighed since he was a seventh-grader.
And his combine performance belies what was a stellar college career at a premier position and still has talent evaluators with mixed feelings.
“There was hype because of his name,” one NFL personnel evaluator told ESPN’s Mike Sando. “Some guys had high grades on him [before the combine]. For them, the workout might have dropped him from the first round to the fourth. I never liked his tape and saw him as a third- or fourth-round guy anyway, so for me, maybe you drop him a round after the combine.”
However, in his three-round mock NFL draft, Mel Kiper Jr. has Brown going in the second round.
“At some point you have to trust the tape,” Kiper said in his evaluation.
Brown understands the combine will remain part of his evaluation. But ultimately, he doesn’t believe it will come to define him.
“The combine doesn’t represent who I am,” he said. “My mentality, or anything like that.”
Source : ESPN