Beniquez Brown’s birthday present came a bit late.
The hug and kiss from his mom, however, was worth the wait.
“She’s everything” Brown said on Sunday of April Brown. “My dad passed away when I was 3 months old and it’s just been me and her my whole life. That’s why every day my plan is to get better and make sure everything is OK on her end.”
On Saturday, his mom threw a big birthday/draft party for Brown, who turned 23 on Wednesday. With 180 friends and family in attendance, the native of Florence, Ala., surprisingly wasn’t drafted. He chose the Green Bay Packers out of 10 free-agent offers.
“It was a blessing,” Brown said of sharing the moment with his mom. “We hugged and we kissed and we were just so excited that all this hard work and all those years of going to practice and staying out late and playing games every weekend since I was 4 years old, that all that hard work has paid off. It’s not being satisfied. She looked at me and told me, ‘You know what you’ve got to do. Finish what we started.’”
Brown left Mississippi State following his redshirt junior season. According to STATS, he recorded 100 tackles, including four sacks and 10.5 stuffs (a tackle at or behind the line of scrimmage vs. the run) in 2015.
At the Scouting Combine, Brown (6-0 3/4, 229) ran his 40 in 4.77 seconds with a 31-inch vertical leap and a 4.28 clocking in the 20-yard shuttle, a drill that measures change-of-direction agility. That compares favorably to Blake Martinez, the inside linebacker drafted by the Packers in the fourth round. Martinez (6-1 5/8, 237) ran his 40 in 4.71 with a 28.5-inch vertical and a 4.20 in the shuttle.
Green Bay entered the draft seeking, at least, an upgrade at dime linebacker, the lone inside linebacker on the field on passing downs. The Packers think Martinez could be that guy; Brown thinks he can get the job done, as well.
“In our defense, we kind of match some things — not completely man-to-man but we matched things and I felt like I did a pretty good job at that,” Brown said. “In some of our defenses, we played man-to-man coverage and I felt like I did pretty good. I guarded tight ends like (first-team all-SEC performer Evan) Engram from Ole Miss, guarded (former Alabama star receiver) Amari Cooper in the slot. I did a lot of that in our system. I feel comfortable at it. Whatever I can do to help my chances, of course I’m willing to do it.”
Intelligence and instincts might be Brown’s best assets. Those coalesced during the Bulldogs’ 51-50 victory over Arkansas on Nov. 22. With Arkansas lined up to kick a chip-shot 29-yard field goal with less than 1 minute remaining, Brown took matters into his own hands.
“I felt like I needed to go make a play for my team,” Brown said.
Usually a safety on the field-goal defense team, Brown asked a coach if he could go for the block, instead.
“The whole game, we were playing a safe field-goal formation,” Brown said. “It was time for us to win. All we had on was a middle block. We brought in a guy who had the highest vertical on the team and just let him jump. I just asked Coach, ‘Coach, can I go?’ He was like, ‘Yes.’ So I went and it worked out in my favor.”
Brown’s block preserved a wild victory.
Coaches can have that kind of trust in Brown because he is Mr. Preparation. Brown’s cousin and roommate, defensive back Kivon Coman, once said Brown “watches too much film.”
“I always want to get ahead of the competition,” Brown said. “I get in the film room and just watch a whole bunch of film and get a head-start on the offense. If I can do anything to help me to react faster or make better plays for my team or put other guys in position, I’m going to do it. I take pride in it and make sure I get a lot of hours in studying and try to be a student of the game.”
Brown’s studying continued heading into the draft. Brown didn’t need to be sold on coming to Green Bay, having done the homework on the team’s situation at inside linebacker with Clay Matthews moving back outside and former undrafted free agent Joe Thomas manning the dime duties.
“I knew that even before the draft had actually started,” he said. “When they called, I felt like it was the best fit for me. I feel like I can go in and compete and fight to make the 53-man roster.”
On Sunday, Brown didn’t seem like a man too disappointed over his draft fate. “I’m OK with everything,” he said. But will it serve as added motivation for a player who’s already playing for his mom?
In typical Brown fashion, he replied, “Yes, sir.”
Packers Undrafted Free Agents
Here are the 21 undrafted signings by the Packers. Another 30-or-so will participate on a tryout basis at this weekend’s rookie orientation camp. Including the seven draft picks, the Packers are at the 90-man roster limit.
QB Joe Callahan, Wesley College
RB Brandon Burks, Troy
RB Don Jackson, Nevada
WR Geronimo Allison, Illinois
WR Devonte Robinson, Utah State
WR Dennis Parks, Rice
WR Herb Waters, Miami
TE David Grinnage, North Carolina State
OT Josh James, Carroll (Mont.) College
DT Tyler Kuder, Idaho State
DT Brian Price, Texas-San Antonio
ILB Beniquez Brown, Mississippi State
ILB Manoa Pikula, BYU
OLB Reggie Gilbert, Arizona
CB Makinton Dorleant, Northern Iowa
CB Warren Gatewood, Alcorn State
CB Josh Hawkins, East Carolina
CB Randall Jette, Massachusetts
S Kentrell Brice, Louisiana Tech
S Demond Smith, Georgia Tech
P Peter Mortell, Minnesota
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.