After getting bumped out of the league following a year-and-a-half with Denver as an undrafted rookie, Browner had no calls coming in, so he decided to go to the Canadian Football League. Spending four years in the CFL changed everything for him.
"I became a professional," Browner said. "My year with Denver, I was a young guy -- 20 years old. I think that played a part in me getting cut. I had some growing to do."
Browner isn’t talking about growing in the physical sense as he stands at 6-foot-4 and 221 pounds, which is rare size for a cornerback.
"Going to Canada, of course I loved the game, but I played for a lot less money and I took on a role of being a leader on that team," Browner said. "I grew as a football player and a professional."
Browner, who combines a high-intensity approach on the field with a humble appreciation for the game off the field, shares his "football journey" as part of our weekly feature:
When he first started playing football: "Seventh grade, 12 years old."
First position he played: "Cornerback and receiver."
Favorite team and player: "49ers, running back Ricky Watters of the 49ers."
Role models: "My older cousin, because he took me to practice every day."
Favorite memory during high school football: "My first game of varsity. They moved me up in 10th grade. I scored two touchdowns on one of the top defensive backs in our city conference."
Why he chose Oregon State: "They came to my house and showed me a scholarship. So that was a big deal for my parents, because none of us ever went to college, so the proof was in the scholarship. It was in my hand and it was so real."
Favorite moment at Oregon State: "My first Pac-10 game. I had three interceptions."
How he ended up playing cornerback: "The guy who got me to sign at Oregon State came to my house and was the receivers coach. So I thought I was going to go play receiver. But I get there and find out I was a cornerback. The first week I was pretty down about it and upset about it, but it all worked out for the best for me."
Big for a cornerback: "I don’t know what they were thinking, but it sure worked out. Maybe they saw something because I did play both ways in high school -- I was a safety. And my guess is that they saw my aggressive nature, maybe they saw something they could use. And also the guy who was starting before me was a 6-foot-3 guy, 200-plus, Dennis Weathersby; [he] was all-conference. So maybe they saw me filling that role."
Striking fear into the opposition: "They’re not going to say that [laughs]. Maybe so. I’ve fared well against some of the top guys coming out of [the Pac-10]. Reggie Williams, Mike Williams. All of these guys were elite football players, if not All-American, then all-conference for sure."
Undrafted and time in Denver: "That was just a short stay for a year-and-a-half. I was playing safety at the time. It was a big change for me going from a corner to safety, where you have to know a lot more. It was going too fast for me, my game was being out on an island, cover-1, zone coverage. Safeties have a big role."
Decision to go to the CFL and time up there: "I had to sit out a year. I had no NFL teams that were interested. That was what my agent came up with -- the CFL. I had a great time up there. Wound up winning the Grey Cup. I was an all-star three of the four years -- the equivalent of a Pro Bowl. I had the best time of my life. With their new CBA, they were only able to keep us for four hours. So I was in to work at eight and done at lunchtime. It was awesome."
Top moment in CFL: "Most definitely, winning the Grey Cup."
Coming back to the NFL to play for Seahawks: "That was maybe bigger than the Grey Cup for me. I’m an American kid who always wanted to play in the NFL. And I had maybe five workouts before the Seattle workout, and I was always being let down or disappointed, because I didn’t sign with any of the five teams. Pete Carroll was genuine in his conversation. I felt like he could use me. He talked to me like he was going to sign me. And that was right before the lockout. Then they signed me and we went right into the lockout. Between the CFL season starting and not sure what would happen with the NFL, it was tough for a little bit because bills were still coming in and checks weren’t coming in. It was a tough time for me, but in the end I knew I would be a Seahawk."
Making the Pro Bowl in his first year back in NFL: "It was awesome to have my name in that group of DBs that they wanted to offer an opportunity to go to Hawaii. As soon as I heard I was an alternate, I was hoping one of the guys who was in front of me wouldn’t want to go. It just so happens the 49ers' Carlos Rogers elected not to go, so I was very fortunate."
On the Legion of Boom: "We really felt like we all were brothers. We did things together in the offseason. We always took a trip together somewhere, so I think we were a close-knit group. I still talk to those guys on a weekly basis. Richard [Sherman] is one of my best friends. It was awesome playing with that caliber of players -- All-Pro and Pro Bowl players. We all held each other accountable. It was a high standard in that defensive back room, and our defensive backs coach [Kris Richard]; we should credit him for a lot of the success we had. The characters in that room -- everybody knows Richard and how outspoken he is. We all had our own egos, and [Richard] knew how to keep us all in check to be successful."
Feeling of winning a Super Bowl even though he couldn’t play because of a suspension: "It wasn’t as sweet. I was out of the league for a little bit, [but] being given that ring, it turned everything upright and positive. I had a positive outlook. I was able to get a ring out of all that was going on with me and my situation, so it went from very bad to being awarded a Super Bowl ring, which I am very fortunate that the GM and owners gave me a ring."
Decision to come to New England: "I had a few options, and this was the first of my trips that I made. Robert Kraft, I remember talking to him as I was getting signed. He spoke to me about his [late] wife Myra and he teared up; that was genuine to me. I always see Robert Kraft and I don’t think I spoke a word to Paul Allen, the owner of the Seattle Seahawks. Robert Kraft teared up speaking about his wife, and that really hit home for me ... I told them, 'Don’t let me get out of here without signing because this is where I want to be and I was eager.' But I had to let my agent do what he had to do. My agent was like, 'Don’t tell them anything.' I landed in a great spot."
Playing with Darrelle Revis: "It’s awesome, man. Guys of his caliber and his stature sometimes take days off, especially older guys. I’ve never seen that in his character. Darrelle comes to work every day. I’ve never seen him complain, or complain about nagging injuries. He comes to work. He’s blue-collar. Pretty much like what I am, and some of the guys that were part of the Legion of Boom. [Revis] comes to work every day, no excuses."
How special is Patriots’ secondary? "I really think we have a chance. We have potential. Everybody sees the potential, but I’m not one to pat myself or those guys on the back, because I’ve had some success and been on teams that didn’t have success and I somewhat know what it takes. Just coming to work and improving every day and in the games is what I’d like to see us do. Then I’ll be able to answer that question somewhere down the line and maybe say we are the best. But we are far from it."
Summing up his football journey: "It’s been awesome. I don’t regret anything and I wouldn’t take anything back, because I think my journey made me the man and the player I am today. I’ve seen so many guys get drafted in the first round who weren’t ready, were still immature and weren’t ready to have that money, blow all the money, get big-headed and things like that; [they] wound up getting pushed out of the league. So my journey was one that matured me and grew into the man I am today. I wouldn’t take it back for anything in the world, because I’ve embraced this journey. I’ve been fortunate to play for an organization like Seattle, the Legion of Boom. Now I’m playing with Darrelle Revis, Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung and the likes of Tom Brady, coached by Bill Belichick. It’s awesome. You couldn’t ask for a better story. If you are a football player, you couldn’t ask for two better teams to play for in the NFL."