Growing up, one of Jaron Brown’s favorite NFL players to watch was Larry Fitzgerald.
Now, the Cheraw native is trying to learn as much as he can from the All-Pro receiver as the two are teammates on the Arizona Cardinals. Brown signed a free-agent deal with the Cardinals in April and went through the club’s organized training activities and mini camp, which wrapped up last month.
“It is a humbling blessing to be on the same team with someone like him,” Brown said of Fitzgerald. “He is a true professional and is a great person to learn from and also looks out for us younger guys. He is definitely someone I want to try and emulate during my career.”
The former Clemson standout said he was initially disappointed he didn’t get drafted, but quickly put that aside. He said he had about 12 teams calling when the draft was over. NFL scouts liked Brown’s 6-foot-2, 205-pound frame and his speed. He ran a 4.4-seconds 40-yard dash during Clemson’s pro day.
Brown said the transition to the NFL has been a little difficult as he is trying to catch up to the speed of the game and learn the team’s playbook. But he was pleased how he performed in offseason workouts and made an impression on Fitzgerald and the Cardinals’ coaching staff.
Brown even got a few reps with the first team while some of the team’s other receivers battled injuries during mini-camp.
“They’re getting a heck of a lot more reps than any rookies I’ve ever been around,” Fitzgerald told reporters of the first-year receivers. “When you’re getting those kinds of reps, you’re going to be improving. It’s just naturally going to happen because you’re getting experience.”
Now, Brown hopes build on that experience when he reports back for training camp at the end of this month. Still, the former Clemson standout is in for a battle as he one of eight rookie receivers on the roster trying to earns spots behind Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and former Citadel standout Andre Roberts on the depth chart.
That’s why he knows he will need to contribute in other areas like special teams like he did while he was at Clemson. Brown played on punt and kickoff returns in addition to his pass catching duties. He averaged 20 yards a return during his career for the Tigers.
“Playing special teams is big because you are trying to make the team and have any edge that you can,” Brown said.
Brown got a late start on his football career and didn’t play organized football until eighth grade because his mom thought it was too dangerous, something he still teases her about to this day. At Cheraw, he was a member of the Braves’ back-to-back Class 2A state championship teams during his junior and senior seasons.
As a senior, he caught 31 passes for 516 yards and 16 touchdowns and was a Shrine Bowl selection.
At Clemson, he had a productive career both on and off the field, despite playing in the shadows of DeAndre Hopkins, a first-round pick of the Houston Texans, and Sammy Watkins, who has first-round aspirations himself in next year’s draft.
Brown finished his career with 87 receptions for 1,186 yards and eight touchdowns. He also was a two-time All-ACC academic selection and graduated with a management degree.
“I am very fortunate to get this opportunity and am going to try and get the most of it,” Brown said.