Bill Little commentary: Chykie Brown - An unlikely journey
From one of the lowest points in his career, Chykie Brown was about to embark on a surprising journey.
Feb. 1, 2013
Bill Little, Texas Media Relations
The distance between Manhattan, Kansas, and the Superdome in New Orleans is just two-and-one-half miles shy of 1,000, and as Chykie Brown walked off the field in the purple hue of the Bill Snyder Family Stadium at Kansas State University with a broken arm two years ago, odds are he didn't envision getting from point A to point B so suddenly.
From one of the lowest points in that 2010 season, the injured Longhorn defensive back from Houston North Shore was about to embark on a surprising journey, which will make its high-point stop Sunday when Chykie and his Baltimore Ravens play the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII for the right to be called the world champions of professional football.
The Longhorns would finish 5-7 that year, prompting a recommitment from the entire football program. In the 2011 NFL draft, Chykie Brown would be the 164th player chosen, picked in the fifth round by the Ravens. And there begins our story.
"It's a wonderful feeling," said Chykie as he prepared for the upcoming game. "I am going to take every advantage of it. It is a rare, rare opportunity, so it is really important to make every moment count. Not everybody gets there. And what we know is, the chance to get that championship trophy or that championship ring, you have to cherish that opportunity, and I am blessed to be a part of a team that does that.
Brown has turned the 2012 season into a dream season for him. He spent much of 2011 as a special teams player, but came into camp energized and redirected last summer. The hard work has paid off. Now, he is sharing starting time as a "nickel" back in the veteran Raven defense, as well as being a leader on special teams.
He comes into the game having been a part of a team that has faced three outstanding quarterbacks in the playoff run - including two legends in Peyton Manning of Denver and Tom Brady of New England - both on the road. The Ravens started the playoffs with a home game against Indianapolis, led by their outstanding rookie quarterback, Andrew Luck.
Brown celebrates that he is part of a defense that includes outstanding veterans, including three future Hall of Famers in defensive back Ed Reed and linebackers Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis.
"I try to take every advantage of that and try to learn every day from them," Chykie says.
Most of all, Brown has come to understand what it takes to play in the NFL.
"I do feel like I am growing up. You have to go in there and work. Those guys [the other quarterbacks] will question you at a strong level. They will challenge you on every play," he said.
There has been, he says, a unique closeness in the Ravens.
"It is a lot like we were at Texas," he says. "We have a togetherness, and we understand that nothing matters right now except winning."
The total team concept is not lost on Brown, who is still true to his roots on the kicking teams.
"Special teams is a big part of a game. We try to win the game with our special teams. Every play that happens, the special teams have a chance to do something that can come up with a win," he says.
A reflection of that "all in" look came in the Ravens' victory over New England in the AFC Championship. On a windy night in Foxboro, Massachusetts, the ball kept blowing off the tee as fellow former Longhorn Justin Tucker prepared to kick off. Chykie was drafted to kneel and hold for the kick.
"It was kind of cool having a Longhorn connection right there in Foxboro," Tucker said later.
Brown and Tucker share the experience of having played in both a BCS National Championship Game against Alabama in 2009 and now a Super Bowl game. Brown says that, while the Super Bowl is certainly at an advanced level, the scheduling and the pacing of preparation for the games are similar.
The fact that Brown and Tucker will share the field with fellow Longhorns Tarell Brown and Leonard Davis of San Francisco is not lost on Chykie. Fact is, it marks the eighth straight Super Bowl to have a Longhorn competing.
"I got a text from [Texas assistant head coach/defensive backs] Coach [Duane] Akina after the AFC Championship, and everybody has been really supportive. It [the fact that there are four Longhorns in the game] just shows what kind of athletes we put out," he said.
While the distance and the circumstances are dramatically different from his last game in college to the highlight of what is a very young professional career, perhaps the most "goes-with-the-territory" factor of the game has been the demand for tickets for the Houston native.
"Yeah, my phone went crazy right after the game. I heard from a lot of good friends and family wanting tickets - including `family' that I hadn't seen in a long, long time!"
With one of the world's largest television audiences focused on every moment Sunday, chances are Chykie Brown will be feeling the challenge of the 49ers and the bright lights of center stage in the Superdome.
And if things go well, he may find he's got a lot more new-found relatives that he's never met.