About a year and a half earlier, the Patriots took Brown in the draft's eighth round, a round that ceased to exist after that season. Then, Brown was cut in his second training camp with New England. He returned home to West Virginia, where he began working at the Guyandotte Boys & Girls Club during his two months out of the league.
"I was planning to go back to school in January  and finishing up my degree," he said. "That's what you have to do when you don't have a job and you've been out for almost two months. But I was blessed and I was lucky to get the phone call [to return to New England]."
Brown remembered watching the Patriots play the Jets just before he received that call. Ronnie Harris, the Patriots' punt returner, fumbled a ball that cost him his job and yielded a new opportunity for Brown. As it turned out, he never had to look for work again.
It could have turned out so differently, too. Brown was famously ridden by former Patriots head coach Bill Parcells, and the wide receiver even tried out for the Jets and Chiefs during his two months away from the game.
If the Jets or Chiefs showed a little more interest, or Harris didn't fumble, or that eighth round went into extinction just a year earlier, Brown may have missed his chance to develop in New England. Surely, hard work pays off for people like Brown, but in the ultra-competitive world of the NFL, players need a break to fall their way, too.
When it came together, Brown became one of the brightest stars in the history of the franchise. He always excelled at his role, in any of the three phases of the game, and emerged as the model team-first player.
Now, Brown is one of three finalists for the Patriots Hall of Fame. Naturally, he's not in yet, and he's lined up against Parcells and former safety Fred Marion, who are two deserving candidates in their own right. But the expectation is that this is Brown's year, with all due respect to Parcells and Marion.
Brown, a first-year nominee, is just happy to be considered. After the way his career began, who can blame him for such humble expectations?
"I think about all the hard work I've put in with the New England Patriots for 15 long years," Brown said. "You get repaid in this way, to be honored by this organization and be a part of a very unique group of not so many athletes, because they only choose one of these guys a year. I'm honored to be even nominated. Between Bill Parcells and Fred Marion, [there's] great competition there. It means a lot to me that they would think that my career was that successful here in New England to be considered to be one of those members."
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