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An unforgettable presence
When it came time to vote for the Seahawks’ 35th Anniversary team, the fans definitely remembered Chad Brown.
They recalled not only that the club’s big free-agent signing in 1997 led the team in tackles his first three seasons, but how he contorted his body to squeeze into spaces and slithered through the smallest of cracks to make those tackles – especially in 1998, when his 150 stops were the second-highest total in franchise history and the most since 1978.
They also remembered Brown’s Pro Bowl selections in 1998 and 1999, and the three-season stretches when he collected 21½ sacks (2001-03) and 19½ sacks (1997-99).
They realized that the relentless linebacker ranks fourth all-time in tackles (744), fifth in sacks (48), third in fumble recoveries (13) and first in fumble returns for touchdowns (three).
Brown? He has different recollections from his eight-season stay with the Seahawks.
“I’d been lucky enough to win lots of football games – in high school, in college, at my other stops in the NFL,” Brown said this week. “As fondly as I remember my Seahawk experience, I still have a 10-year regret that I wasn’t able to win more games when I was there.
“Most of the memories you get from a sporting experience is based around championships and is based around big-time victories. And we didn’t have enough of those when I was there. I wish I could have found a way to get more of those done when I was playing for the Seahawks.”
Brown’s tenure in Seattle spanned two coaches – Dennis Erickson in 1997-98 and Mike Holmgren from 1999-2004; and included playing home games in three venues – the Kingdome, Husky Stadium and Seahawks Stadium/Qwest Field. Those eight teams, however, won double-digit games only once (10-6 in 2003) and averaged 8.3 victories.
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The Seahawks’ 35th Anniversary team, as selected by the readers of Seahawks.com:
But it didn’t change the fact that Brown always played hard – and well. So when the readers of Seahawks.com voted for the 35th Anniversary team, Brown was the leading vote-getter among the outside linebackers (2,605) and finished second among all the ’backers to middleman Lofa Tatupu (3,539).
“I’ve seen who’s on the 35th Anniversary team and it’s definitely an honor to be with those guys,” Brown said. “I’m happy the fans selected me. It means a lot.”
Brown’s career, and life, went full circle after he left the Seahawks. He played the first four seasons of his 15-year NFL career with Pittsburgh Steelers, and then rejoined them in 2006. He also played for the New England Patriots after leaving the Seahawks (2005 and 2007).
He still lives in the Denver area, where he runs Pro Exotics and Ship Your Reptiles, which breed, sell and ship non-venomous snakes and reptiles; has coached his daughter (Amani) in basketball, is coaching his son (Aram) in football and also doing private coaching for players in high school and at the University of Colorado, his alma mater; and has a weekend gig on a Denver sports talk radio station.
But while Brown is out of football, and has been for the past three seasons, that doesn’t mean football is out of Brown.
“Absolutely not. Absolutely not,” Brown said when asked if he was over missing the game. “When you play football as long as I have it is just in you, and there is no escaping the game. So whether it’s doing the private coaching, or it’s coaching my son’s team, or talking about on the radio, it is a daily part of my life. I’ll never be able to get too far away from football.”
He also is about to launch his latest adventure of a venture – a TV show, “Snake Makers.”
“Once I saw Steve Irwin, I thought, ‘You know what? When I’m done playing ball it would be awesome to have an animal/travel type of show,’ ” Brown said. “It’s about reptile people all around the world and it will be based on my business.”
Ah, retirement. “I’m sure my wife would dispute that word,” a laughing Brown said of Kristin, who he met at Colorado. “Because I’m far busier now than I was when I was playing.”
This snake thing always has been more than an avocation. It’s a passion, and has been since he was kid growing up in Altadena, Calif., watching “Wild Kingdome.”
“I’ve always been into animals,” Brown said. “My dad and I would sit there and watch Marlin Perkins on ‘Wild Kingdome.’ I just loved it.”
This snake thing also carried over to the way he played the game.
“Chad is literally like a snake,” said Brian Cabral, Brown’s position coach at Colorado and a former linebacker with the Chicago Bears.
“It’s ironic. That is his love and his hobby and his business, but that’s his style. Chad has a gift. You can’t block him. He gets out of situations and positions, and I don’t know how he does it. I’d see it on the field and I wouldn’t know. I’d review the play on film, and I still wouldn’t know.
“He’s just so slippery and he’s flexible, very mobile. ‘Elusive’ is the best word to describe him.”
Robbie Tobeck can relate. Tobeck is the center on the 35th Anniversary team, but before he and Brown were teammates in Seattle they played against one another while Brown was with the Steelers and Tobeck was in Atlanta.
“Chad was so fast and such a freak athlete,” Tobeck said. “He’d come on a blitz. It was, here he was and now he’s gone. All you could do was go, ‘Holy cow, that guy is fast.’ You didn’t want to blink, or he’d be by you.”
It’s a gift, and one Brown always has had. During sophomore season at John Muir High School in Pasadena, Calif., the varsity was not getting enough pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Then-coach Jim Brownfield recruited a skinny 175-pound kid from the freshman-sophomore team and plugged him in at tackle.
“The other coaches wondered what I was doing,” Brownfield said while Brown was still playing for the Seahawks. “But nobody could block this kid and he was a hellacious pass rusher.”
That too-little, too-small tag served not so much as a chip on Brown’s shoulder, but a motivational wedge for what became standout careers at Muir, Colorado and then in the NFL.
“When you’re not as big, or as fast, or as strong, you’ve got to find some advantage,” Brown said. “If I’m willing to play harder than you, well, then that’s going to be my advantage. And I figured that one out pretty early.
“That was probably one of the keys to my success: Overwhelming people with how hard I could play.”
Not to mention, how well.