Marlon Brown was packing up his bags to head to Chicago to try out for the Bears when his phone rang; it was his offensive coordinator from 2014.
“[Head coach] [Gary] Kubiak and the Broncos called, and they told me, ‘You just have to pass a physical and we’ll sign you,'” Brown explained to BSN Denver on Saturday. “So I came out here. It was pretty easy for me to come out here because I already kind of knew the offense, so it was kind of easy for me to fit in.”
Brown was signed by the Ravens undrafted in 2013 out of Georgia and made an impact right away, eventually being just one of two undrafted rookies to make the roster.
He played in the very first game of the season after Jacoby Jones suffered and injury and had four catches for 65 yards and a touchdown. Quite the debut for an undrafted rookie. Unfortunately, his performance was overshadowed by some guy named Peyton Manning on the other team, he threw seven touchdowns in a 49-27 win for the Denver Broncos.
Brown would go on to catch seven touchdowns his rookie year, including a game-winner in week 14 with just four seconds left on the clock.
Since then, though, he’s yet to catch another, only tallying 38 catches for 367 yards in the last two seasons, and losing the second half of last season to a back injury. Brown was released by the Ravens in May.
On Wednesday though, the Memphis, Tennessee man got another chance, and without having to try out for it.
“I guess you could say it was a relief,” he said of being signed in Denver instead of having to try out in Chicago. “But I’m a competitor, I don’t care if it’s a tryout or not, I’m still gonna go out there and get it, you know.”
Since arriving in Denver, all he’s done is go out there and get it. Not skipping a beat in an offense he’s familiar with.
“I’m first off just excited that John [Elway] was able to get that done,” Kubiak said of the signing. “Marlon is a good player. He got hurt last year and played really well for me two years ago in Baltimore. He’s a big kid; he knows what we’re doing and he plays really well on special teams. Marlon can help this team. He’s made it very competitive, and I think the guys know that. I feel very fortunate to get him.”
“Oh man, that’s dope right there, man,” Brown said of Kubiak’s kind words.
The 6-foot-5, 215-pounder has seemingly become a favorite target of another guy familiar with Memphis, Paxton Lynch, the two working mostly with the third team as they both get adjusted.
“Marlon knows the offense because he’s been with me before,” Kubiak explained. “So he’s in the right spot and Pax has got to throw it to the guy he’s supposed to throw it to. I think it’s been more about that.”
Brown finds himself in a wide receiver competition that’s littered with talent, behind locks Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, the Broncos will have room for just three, maybe four additional wideouts and nine players competing for those positions on the 53-man. To make the team, Brown will have to re-capture the form he found in 2013, something he explains was a reflection of something simple.
“I had teammates who definitely helped me out along the way like Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, even Brandon Stokley, he came there for a little bit, they helped me out, but I just had a lot of opportunities,” he said. “I just stepped in when the opportunity came about, when Jacoby got hurt and made the most of it.”
No. 89 is hard to miss as he continues to make plays on the practice fields, his dreads draping all the way down his back. “Six years, four months,” he says with a smile and without hesitation when asked how long he’s been growing them.
It’s a long time, but it pales in comparison to the lifetime of work he’s put towards playing in the NFL, towards earning these opportunities.
“I’m very, very fortunate to even have an opportunity to play in the league,” he concluded. “I’m just going to keep going out here, grinding, keep trying to make plays on offense and special teams and that’s all I can control.”
As his position coach explains, even if he doesn’t make the Broncos, this is a tryout for 31 other teams. At the very least, he’s done a great job, thus far, in that try out.