Philadelphia Eagle A.J. Brown is One Thing: Relentless
Eagle A.J. Brown’s quest for perfection
By Dave Spadaro

Photos: Philadelphia Eagles

He had just experienced an incredible afternoon on the football field with 6 receptions for 156 yards and 3 touchdowns. Yet when Eagles wide receiver A.J. Brown pauses and considers if he felt “unstoppable” in the victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lincoln Financial Field last month, Brown’s words belie his smile.

“I actually feel like I left a lot out there and I don’t like that feeling. I don’t like feeling like I haven’t played up to my standard,” Brown says. “So, I’m happy we won the game. That’s first and foremost the thing that matters. But as far as me? I made some plays. But I also stunk in some spots and that’s going to bother me tonight. I’m relentless that way. I’m never satisfied. That’s just the way I’ve always been. It’s that drive inside of me to always want more.”

“You give me a chance to be great and I’m going to be great. I’ll take that challenge any day. I love that.”

It isn’t just inside Brown; he has a “RELENTLESS” tattoo on the outside of his left leg that begins just below his knee and extends down to his ankle. He literally wears the sentiment, the mentality, the day-to-day assault on the quest for perfection, for everyone to see.

Acquired by the Eagles on the first night of the 2022 NFL Draft in April, Brown has been a sensation as the big-man (6-feet-1 and a burly 226 pounds), big-play receiver (averaging 16.7 yards per catch and scoring 6 touchdowns in the team’s opening 8 victories) the team has sought since the days of (gulp) Terrell Owens in 2004.

An offense that returned intact from the 2021 season added Brown, a Pro Bowl player in 2020, one year after the Titans used a second-round draft pick to select him from the University of Mississippi. The impact has been instant and eye-opening: The Eagles averaged more than 28 points per game as mid-November arrived, third-best in the NFL.

This is why Brown has been all smiles since that night in April, since he reunited with a bestie in quarterback Jalen Hurts and was welcomed by an Eagles fan base that, as tough as it can be to win over, has welcomed Brown with open arms and love. So much love. All-encompassing adoration.

“Oh, it was immediate,” Brown says a couple of weeks after his big game against Pittsburgh as he dressed at his locker with the sign he hung, “Always Open,” the dominant decoration in the NovaCare Complex locker room. “The rest of the league hears about Eagles fans and thinks they’re crazy, they’re not rational, they are too tough. I haven’t found that to be the case at all. They’ve been amazing and it truly has made a difference. It was like, ‘We need you. We want you to come in here and be great.’ For me, that’s all I needed to hear. I like words of affirmation, so that meant so much to me.

“You give me a chance to be great and I’m going to be great. I’ll take that challenge any day. I love that.”

Being happy is something Brown appreciates even more now after a bout with depression a couple of seasons ago when he went public with feelings of helplessness that forced him to ponder suicide. Brown has taken therapy since that time and has learned not to bottle up his emotions, something he did throughout his early life. Brown hasn’t been specific about what caused his helplessness, but he has been very open about the need to express emotions and understand “that we’re all human and there are going to be things you have to deal with. Ignoring those feelings isn’t a good thing.”

Things are all sprinkles and sunshine for Brown these days. He’s happily the father of 2 – daughter Jersee and new son A.J., Jr, who was born in late September – and living the quiet life in South Jersey, a short drive from the team’s practice facility in South Philadelphia.

“Man, I’m a happy, happy man,” he said. “My kids, I love being with my family. Jersey gives me privacy and a lot of space, and I love that. I’m a quiet guy. When I’m not here, I’m home and I’m watching movies and changing diapers [Brown rates his diaper-changing skills ‘I’m a 10’] and playing with my kids. I’m a big family guy. I love it all. South Jersey is right for me. It’s a beautiful area and the people are nice, and they sure do love the Eagles. We’re winning football games. I love this organization and the way we’re treated, the vibe we have here.

“The football part of it is where I’ve focused since I came here because, you know, this is my profession. New team, I have to learn the offense. Two young kids, I mean, there isn’t much time for anything else and that’s perfectly fine with me. When we get out and we see people, they come up to me and, at the end of the day, it’s a blessing. That’s how I feel about the whole thing. I’m playing for my family and this team and Eagles fans who are so supportive. I appreciate all of this.’”

Says Hurts about Brown, whom he has known since the 2 were high school players being recruited to college: “He is a true friend and he is someone who is going to give you everything he has. We met when he tried to recruit me to Mississippi [Hurts instead attended Alabama] and we’ve stayed in touch ever since. He’s a great guy, a hard worker, one of the best football players you are ever going to see and someone who fits in perfectly to our culture. We all want more and so that’s what we’re striving for.”

The last time the Eagles made a significant trade for a star wide receiver was in 2004. Terrell Owens had 77 receptions, 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns to help lead Philadelphia to Super Bowl 39. It’s impossible not to notice the connection. That’s how much Brown has meant to the Eagles. That’s how good he is, to be compared to a player now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“Like I said, I’m smiling for a reason. When you’re happy, anything and everything is possible,” Brown says. “I’m just going to keep doing my thing, having fun – I’ve never had more fun in my career – and doing what the Eagles ask me to do. We have a lot of weapons. Sometimes it’s not going to be my turn. As long as we’re winning and everybody is doing his part, that’s what I love.

“This is the best time of my life. I’m enjoying every minute of it.”


Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro has covered every Eagles game since 1987 and is seen and heard throughout the year on television, radio and Eagles coverage everywhere. You can hear his Eagles Live Podcast on iTunes.

December 2022
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