Brown understands that now, and he says it's made him a better player.
"I try to do the right things all the time on and off the field," he said. "I've learned more football since I've been here. I understand the concepts more and I understand my role on the team. By me understanding all that it's helping me develop as a player."
When Brown is running out of steam during these hot two-a-day practices, or when he starts to get down on himself for a missed assignment, he pulls advice learned from one of his veteran position coaches.
"One thing Coach [Kenny] Browning says is when you're tired or having a bad practice, take the attention off of yourself and pick somebody else up," Brown said. "That's the best way to be a leader, so you keep everything positive and everybody's spirits up. That's my approach to being a leader."
Times have been tough for Brown's class – UNC fans don't need a history lesson to remember the hard times the defense suffered through during his early years. And while many of the seniors – like Brown – weren't afforded the luxury of a redshirt season, they're making the most of this last go-round and preparing to make this a special year.
As the players walked through the tunnel after a rigorous practice, Brown was smiling from ear-to-ear.
"This team is a family," Brown said. "There's a lot of in-state and out-of-state players, but we're all we've got right now. We're a family away from home. Inside this stadium, we look to each other to pick each other up. The older players teach the younger players, and by us teaching them, we become better ourselves."
Brown appears capable of making his final season his best, and he's vying for a starting position at end with fellow upperclassmen Brian Rackley and Hilee Taylor. He played in seven games last year and was a special teams performer as well. His best game came in the win over Utah, in which he recorded two tackles, a sack and a forced fumble.
His numbers will likely go up this year with increased playing time, but it's Brown's impact on his teammates that may be his most important contribution. Whether or not he ever becomes the focal point of the defense is not important to him. He's simply enjoying watching the team become better and better.
"It's a talent issue," Brown said. "You get more talent as the years go by. It's the older guys who learned under a system and we learned how to work hard as a group.
"Practice is fun now. This is my last camp, so I aim to have fun everyday. When it's fun, you play better."