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“He’s The Heartbeat Of The Offensive Line”
In his 13th season, Duane Brown is showing he’s still one of the game’s best tackles, and he has been a big part of Seattle’s offensive success this season. 
By John Boyle Dec 18, 2020

This is the Seahawks Gameday Magazine feature story for Week 15 of the 2020 season, presented by Gatorade. Visit our Game Center for more information related to Week 15 vs. the Washington Football Team.

After Will Dissly caught a short pass and powered his way into the end zone, the Seahawks tight end waited for his teammates to join him, then handed the ball to Duane Brown, allowing the veteran left tackle to emphatically spike the ball in Lumen Field's south end zone. 

And as is often the case when a big man does something in a football game other than block or tackle—in this case spike a football—the celebration gained a lot of attention on social media.

"I wasn't planning that at all actually," Brown said. "It's rare that I run that far to go celebrate, so I was just kind of excited and Will kind of sought me out, handed and me the ball. Jordan Simmons spiked the ball, I think was against the Vikings, and it was subpar. So I was just trying to show him was done. It got a lot of attention I didn't want, but it's all good." 

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll described the spike as "stellar" and noted that there's no video evidence of the ball ever coming down after it bounced up and out of the camera shot, suggesting perhaps that it landed on the Toyota Fan Deck, the area in the upper concourse where the Seahawks 12 Flag resides. 

And even if Brown's spike garnered more attention than he was intending, it's appropriate that something put him in the spotlight in the midst of what has been an outstanding season in Year 13 of a great career. 

A four-time Pro-Bowler and one-time first-team All-Pro, Brown is, at 35 years old, having one of the best seasons of his career. Despite regularly sitting out one day of practice every week and being limited on other days to manage his workload, and in particular a knee that caused him to miss games late last season, Brown has started every game and played nearly every snap this season minus the fourth quarter of Sunday's blowout win over the Jets. And it isn't like Brown is barely managing to get through games; he's playing at an incredibly high level. 

According to Pro Football Focus, Brown has been the fifth best tackle in the NFL this year and his 88.4 grade is the second best of his career, trailing only his All-Pro 2012 campaign. Brown has had only one penalty enforced all year, a false start—he was called for what he described as a "ticky-tack" hold last week but it was declined—and has allowed only two sacks according to PFF. 

"He's amazing," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "He's an amazing member of this club in a number of ways, but one of the ways is just his work ethic, it's so obvious. He's the strongest guy out here and he's the hardest working guy, he's smart as you get, as tough as you can get. He really stands for something; these guys really respect the heck out of them. And to just keep coming back—he isn't able to practice all week long in preparation, and to maintain an edge and play under those circumstances is difficult. He's just a very special and a very unique player."

The Legend of Duane Brown

Spend any amount of time talking about Duane Brown, and one of the first things that comes up is his athleticism. Simply put, humans who are 6-foot-4, 315 pounds should not be able to move the way Brown can move, particularly not people that size who have experienced the kind of wear and tear that 13 seasons in the NFL trenches can put on a body. Yet if the Seahawks run a toss play to the left, it's a safe bet you'll see Brown flying sprinting to the second level faster than somebody his size ought to be able to, lining up an unfortunate defensive back for a block.

And when, in training camp, offensive players run sideline-to-sideline sprints after practice, the oldest lineman on the field is also almost assuredly going to prove to be the fastest—he's also been known to keep with if not beat his quarterback in said sprints. 

Of course, none of this is anything new when it comes to Brown. The legend of Duane Brown's athletic ability started long before he became a first-round pick and a Pro-Bowler with the Houston Texans. 

"I've always heard of the legend of Duane Brown," said Wilson, who is also from Richmond. "He's from Richmond, Virginia. He went to Hermitage High, I was right down the street from him, so growing up playing and all that stuff, I kind of always knew what kind of player he was… He was just dominating, he was a great player. Everybody knew who he was."

After a high school career that saw him average a double-double on the basketball team, post impressive numbers in the discus and shot put on the track team, and of course dominate on the football field, Brown went to Virginia Tech where, for two seasons he overlapped with Seahawks Legend Kam Chancellor. 

"He's a big, physical, athletic, freakish guy, and also a great person as well," Chancellor said in 2017 after the Seahawks acquired Brown in a trade with the Texans. ""He has always been an overall freakish athlete, and he's always been a team player as well."

To explain just how athletic Brown was—and still is for that matter—Chancellor pointed not to his play on offense, but rather what he did on special teams at Virginia Tech. 

"In college he was a wing on punt team; he used to run down and make tackles and stuff," Chancellor said. "He was big and huge, so that was something I just always remember… Or if the quarterback threw an interception, you'd see him running somebody down. I just remember those highlights from college."

The Heartbeat of the Offensive Line

The Seahawks were fortunate to replace Hall of Fame left tackle Walter Jones with Russell Okung in the 2010 draft, assuring them nearly two decades of uninterrupted quality play at that all-important position. But after Okung left in free agency, the Seahawks had a hard time finding a solution at left tackle, eventually leading to them making a trade with Houston for Brown, who was holding out during the first half of the 2017 season. 

And while it's unfair to compare anyone to Jones, arguably the greatest left tackle in NFL history, it's safe to say that position in once again in very capable hands. 

"When we had the opportunity to try to go pursue him, I was super fired up about the opportunity, just because of the type of player he is, the grit that he brings, all the things that he can do athletically, get on the edge and all that," Carroll said. "As soon as he got here, we were fired up, we were connected. Just to have a guy who's so consistent every week, a guy who's so dominant the left tackle position like Duane is—to me, he's one of the best left tackles in the game, if not the best one, in my opinion. All the things that he can do, how athletic he is, I don't think anybody else can do. I think he's a Pro-Bowl player, I think he's an All-Pro player. He can do everything and he's shown that over his career, and over the time that he's been here as well."

Yet for athletic as Brown is, that's only a small part of what makes him such an important part of this team. Despite being new to the team when he arrived in that 2017 trade, he quickly took on a leadership role as one of the most experienced and accomplished players on the offense. And as Carroll noted, his work ethic is second-to-none, allowing him to set the tone with his actions as much as his words. And this year he's using all of his experience, his football smarts and his physical preparation to compensate for the considerable practice time he's missing.

"It's amazing," offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. "I would say he's the heartbeat of the offensive line, he's one of the leaders for a guy to miss as much practice time as he does, it's amazing that you play at that level. Because what happens as the season goes, people lose their ability to—not schematically but fundamentally you see players start to lessen and their past protection gets, off or a quarterback's footwork might get off—this guy hasn't lost that. And I think that comes from just his professionalism, but the way he works; he tries to take every rep that he can of walk thru. But it's a testament to him. He's just having a terrific season."

While Brown is at an age where the topic of retirement is difficult to avoid, he doesn't let himself think about an end date, because he believes that once he tells his body when it's time to quit, it will be ready to do just that. 

"I'm just taking it year by year," Brown said. "I don't want to put a number on it. I don't want to tell my body when to shut it down. I've got a strong feeling about, you tell yourself you have this many years, and your body listens to you and will shut it down around that time. So I'm just enjoying it. I'm enjoying each and every Sunday, enjoying each and every year, and that's all I'm concerned with right now."

And for Brown, the ability to thrive in his 13th season, despite limited practice, doesn't really come as a surprise because he knows how much work he put into getting to this point in his career. 

"I put in a lot of work," he said. "I put a lot of work just for my body to be available, to be able to move and play it at the level I want to and I feel like I'm capable of. Put in a lot of work in film study and preparation throughout the week. So no, I'm not surprised, I'm grateful. I'm grateful you that my body's been able to continue to produce for me at this stage of my career. I'm grateful for the staff and for the organization for just the management throughout the week, so I'm able to be able to be fresh and feel like myself every Sunday, so it's a blessing."

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