If you didn’t know which one was projected as one of the top three or four receivers in the NFL draft and which one was the complementary target during the 2014-15 seasons, you wouldn’t have known the difference between Will Fuller and Chris Brown at last Thursday’s Notre Dame Pro Day.
Fuller had already proven himself at the Indianapolis Combine in February, running a blazing 4.32 in the 40-yard dash to add to his brilliant 2014-15 seasons in which he caught 138 passes for 2,352 yards and 29 touchdowns for the Irish.
But Brown – who caught 87 passes for 1,145 yards and five scores with the Irish– continued his ascent up the April 28-30 NFL draft charts with an impressive pass-catching display on March 31 during Notre Dame’s Pro Day in the Loftus Sports Center on Meyo Field.
“I felt like I caught everything great and that I tested well,” said Brown, who officially was clocked at 4.44 in the 40. “I felt like I ran a lot faster than a lot of people said I would. During my all-star game, I think somebody told me I’d run mid-4.5s. I’m pretty sure I ran faster than that.”
Brown has been dispelling notions since his January appearance in the East-West Shrine game when he first started to turn heads on the post-season tryout circuit.
Brown caught three passes for 42 yards, including a 25-yarder, in the St. Petersburg, Fla., game.
Brown was one of 10 Notre Dame players invited to the Indianapolis Combine in February, where he hoped to show the speed that earned him the nickname “Breezy” shortly after his arrival at Notre Dame as a freshman in 2012.
He was derailed in Indianapolis when he was prevented from testing in the speed and agility drills due to a stress reaction in his lower leg.
“I didn’t feel anything, (nor) in my training afterwards and up ‘till now,” Brown said. “So it was unfortunate because I felt I was ready to run.
“But I understood the policy. I tried to appeal it. The main guy who was running the combine gave me props for how professionally I took my appeal process. But he said they couldn’t (allow me to run) because of liability reasons.”
That put a huge importance on Brown’s testing at Notre Dame last week, and he responded to the challenge. One of the NFL representatives on hand had Brown at 4.39 in the 40. His 10’-10” broad jump would have ranked third among receivers in Indianapolis and eighth overall.
“I wish I had gotten 11,” said Brown, who won prep state titles in the triple and long jumps. “But 10-10 is (longer) than the average, and I don’t think I’m average.”
Most importantly, Brown caught all but one pass thrown to him last Thursday by former Irish quarterback Everett Golson, who returned to Notre Dame for his Pro Day performance.
Whereas Fuller guided the football into his hands and appeared reluctant to stretch out for some passes without having his body behind the throw in case it slipped through his grasp, Brown wasn’t the least bit hesitant to extend his 6-foot-2, 193-pound frame to make a catch.
“He deserves every bit of that,” said Brown of Fuller’s first- or second-round projections. “That’s my brother. I’m praying that he goes first round because of how hard he works.
“I’m just glad I was able to be out here with him and show that I can play ball too. He knows that and he knows how hard we’ve worked and how much time we’ve put in.”
Next up for Brown are visits with the Tennessee Titans, the San Diego Chargers and the Miami Dolphins. The New Orleans Saints will be at Notre Dame on Wednesday, April 6, for an individual workout. The Houston Texans have a lunch gathering with Brown scheduled.
Meanwhile, Brown continues to take classes this semester at Notre Dame. In fact, two days before Pro Day, he completed his thesis in Africana studies in the College of Arts and Letters.
Strong showings at the East-West Shrine and Notre Dame’s Pro Day virtually assure that Brown will be drafted.
“I definitely feel I’m big-time receiver,” said Brown, who will return home to Hanahan, S.C. and watch the draft in Charleston. “Just being able to get drafted and being able to hear your name called is a blessing in itself.
“Wherever I go, whether it be the very last pick, I’ll be very happy with that.”