Sydney Brown’s journey to the NFL Combine is a story of perseverance and determination.
Growing up in London, Ont., Brown and his twin brother Chase faced an unstable home environment that posed challenges to their academic performance. However, they managed to overcome their circumstances and emerge as football prodigies.
The brothers moved an estimated 20 times between homes and shelters with their mother and younger sister, Mya, before they turned 16. Eventually, they moved on their own to Florida, where they attended St. Stephen’s Episcopal School for their final years of high school. There the Brown twins relied on each other and a local support network, laying the foundation for future NFL success.
“It was making the move. It was coming away from home, moving away from my mom. It was really becoming an adult at 16,” Brown reflected. “I think that was the biggest challenge and we learned how to be by ourselves and rely on each other at that point. I think that was the biggest adjustment, but we had a great support team down there with our high school coach and some surrounding families that really helped us out when we were out there.”
Sydney excelled in athletics south of the border, becoming a state finalist in the 400-meter dash and other relays. His speed is evident on tape and was on full display Friday in Indianapolis when he clocked a blistering 4.47-second forty-yard dash.
He also showed off a ten-foot, ten-inch broad jump and 40.5-inch vertical, both among the best results in his position group.
“This was part of my vision. I knew this would happen for me and Chase,” Brown said. “I am rooting for my brother in the combine to do well. I want him to run fast. He wants me to run fast, there are definitely some side bets we got in the 40 and the three-cone and the shuttle.”
Brown played safety at the University of Illinois and was highly productive in coach Bret Bielema’s defence, earning first-team All-Big Ten honours in his final season. His ability to play as a nickel cornerback and safety hybrid is a notable trait, particularly his versatility in coverage. Brown’s one attribute that sets him apart from other players is his ability to react and trust what his eyes are telling him.
“You have to give respect to the coaches at Illinois. They’ve done a great job of getting us here and preparing me for this moment,” he said. “It shows that they’re developing class defensive backs and we got class players coming from the University of Illinois. You look at the guys like Keith Randolph, Johnny Newton down on the line and Seth Coleman. You look at offensively too, some talented receivers and linemen that could potentially come out as well.”
Despite not seeing himself as an NFL player in the past, Brown is now on the verge of a professional career and he is making the most of the experience. He knows that the more knowledge he collects, the better he can apply it on the field.
“I came to college not knowing anything. I came knowing I knew how to play cover one, that was it. So I made an effort to learn the game and understand it,” Brown recalled. “I came in with Lovie Smith and I learned a great deal from him. You learn from your mistakes on the field and you build on them and make sure you become the best player from that.”
Brown’s versatility and outstanding athletic traits make him an attractive prospect for any team, with some draft analysts projecting that he could go as high as the second round. He is ready to play on special teams or even move to corner if asked. His love for the game, and the process both on and off the field, pushes him to make progress as a player and grow as a man.
“I play with a chip on my shoulder. I need to push for what I want. I’ve gotta work for it,” he explained. “I think one thing I love is the process on and off the field. I think that’s what kind of pushes me to play football, honestly, is seeing the result. Results within the team, results within myself, making progress as a player and seeing who I turned into as a man.”
Brown overcame the challenges he faced growing up to emerge as one of the top prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft. Whatever the outcome, Brown’s story is an inspiration to anyone who faces hurdles in life and wants to pursue their dreams.