Man of The Playoffs
Texans left tackle Duane Brown reveals all on engagement, playoffs & squeezinginto Smart Cars
I had the pleasure of meeting Houston Texans left tackle Duane Brown a number of times last year. The first time we met, he confessed he was a pretty “boring and average guy” and that he might not make the best interview subject.
After posting a simple question on Twitter and Facebook asking fans what they’d ask if they could ask anything from an NFL left tackle, I figured the best way to handle this interview was to hurl a smorgasbord of unrelated questions, which resulted in one of most unflowing, yet highly informative and comprehensive interviews of a pro athlete you’ve ever seen (hopefully).
What better time than now — with the Texans set to play the first playoff game in franchise history Saturday afternoon at Reliant Stadium — to learn about the big man who powers the running game?
In the middle of my first question, Brown's phone rang and he politely asked if he could take the call. A few minutes later I heard, “Thanks coach, that’s awesome, thanks!” and he hung up.
Jayme Lamm: Good news I presume?
Duane Brown: [smiling] Yeah. [Gary] Kubiak just told me I made it as an alternate to the Pro Bowl.
JL: That’s awesome, congrats. Does that mean you get to go to Hawaii?
DB: I guess if someone gets injured, yeah. But I plan to be getting ready for the Super Bowl, so I’m not worried about it.
Around Thanksgiving, Brown got engaged to his long-distance girlfriend, LA radio personality Devon Anjelica. For a big guy, he can sure be sneaky. They met up in Los Angeles for a little R&R and Brown said he had to fly to Dallas a day early.
He planned a nice dinner for her, said his goodbye and then headed to a friend’s house to keep the surprise intact.
The next day, he surprised her at dinner, where many of her friends and family were, and pulled out a stunning diamond ring. Like most women, Anjelica had hinted around at the ring she wanted to lay claim on her left hand for the rest of her life.
Brown took those ideas and showed a handful of rings to her best friends. “They helped me choose the perfect one,” he says.
The couple means business, too — they’ve already set a date for July 13. As for kids, Brown says “we’re taking our time with it. She has a lot going on with her career, and I respect that.”
JL: Long distance sucks, huh?
DB: Yeah, but we get to see each other pretty often. I just flew up to New York and saw her for Christmas, and she comes to almost all my home games.
JL: What was the best gift you got this Christmas? Was it those black and red Jordans you’re wearing?
DB: People are going crazy over those shoes, right? All those fights — that’s crazy man. My girl got me a digital picture frame. That was probably my favorite gift.
The main (and pretty much only) job of an OT is to protect the quarterback. In just 15 games this season, Brown has already had to protect four different QBs — Matt Schaub, who throws right, Matt Leinart, who throws left, playoff starter T.J. Yates and new backup Jake Delhomme, who are both righties.
Just as the movie indicates, there is such thing as a blind side, which, when a right-handed quarterback is in, is Brown’s position. When a righty drops back in the pocket, he can’t see what’s coming from his left. He’s not as quick to move away from a defensive tackle or defensive end, because he can’t see them.
A few people asked if a change in quarterback throwing arms creates a change in play for Brown. “I don’t have to change my technique at all," he says. "Our offensive scheme changes a bit, but my first priority is always to protect to the QB regardless of his throwing arm."
Since I write a sport’s column titled The Blonde Side, I figured I’d ask about the 2009 Blind Side movie starring Michael Oher.
JL: Do people understand your position better since The Blind Side came out?
DB: I run across a lot of people that have zero idea about football and say I play left tackle. They always ask what that is, and I reference the movie. They seem to get it after that.
Probably one of the best questions someone asked on Facebook was what really goes on in a dogpile?
When I asked Brown, he laughed. “A lot of profanity, pushing, shoving, punching, kicking, more punching — anything to get the ball. It’s pretty violent down there,” he confesses. “Really, anything goes, but the refs do a good job to regulate as soon as possible. You gotta always pay attention.”
JL: You do seem to be at the bottom of a number of pile-ups.
DB: I always try to be around the ball carrier to protect him and the ball. My first priority is to get the ball if a defensive guy knocks it out, but secondly, I gotta protect my teammates.
JL: I would assume as the biggest guy on the team, you are the one most of the littler guys look to for protection?
DB: I think I’m the biggest, yeah — as far as weight, for sure. Eric [Winston] is taller than me, but I still weigh more.
JL: You’re 6-foot 4-inches, 320 pounds, right?
DB: Well I’ve lost a few pounds. I’m about 314 right now.
JL: Is it hard to find clothes?
As I’ve told Brown (who played his college ball at Virginia Tech) a number of times, I am not a Hokies fan. I grew up in Virginia, but something about those Virginia Tech Hokies just drives me crazy. In response to my Tweet, another of Brown’s fans asked what it was like coming out to “Enter The Sandman” at Lane Stadium.
“It’s the most amazing feeling in the world — I’ve never felt an energy like that. The atmosphere in that stadium, the fans, the music — it’s second to none,” he says. “Every time I hear that song, I get goosebumps.”
JL: Do you think Devon will let you rock that song at your wedding?
DB: [laughing] Nah, she won’t have that.
It’s no secret that every year the Texans offensive line seems to get better and better. One fan wanted to know how much time these guys spend together during the season and the offseason, because their cohesion just seems to work.
“We all try to improve individually, but as a group, we are the most tight-knit unit on the team. For the most part we’ve all been together the past three years," Brown says. "We have a feeling for what the guy next door is going to do, so we don’t have to communicate a lot."
JL: Who’s the hardest defensive end you’ve had to block?
DB: Dwight Freeney. He’s a sure first ballot Hall-of-Famer. I have to face him twice a year. I haven’t given up any sacks against him this year. I think I’ve finally figured out a game plan against him, but he’s tough.
JL:There’s been a lot of talk about the absence of Mike Brisiel (who is returning from a fractured fibula to play against the Bengals) . . .
DB: It’s tough without him; I’ll give you that. It’s unfortunate that he got hurt, but Antoine Caldwell has done a good job stepping up. Luckily he’s taken a lot of reps during practice, and we really haven’t missed a beat. But Mike should be back for the playoffs.
JL: Speaking of the playoffs…
DB: I’m excited, man. This is unchartered territory for our organization and for me personally.
JL: Are you nervous?
DB: Not too nervous. I’ve heard it’s a different speed in the playoffs. I’m more excited than anything.
JL: What's your ideal Super Bowl matchup?
DB: Well Houston, obviously. I’ll go with Houston vs. New Orleans. Even though the Packers are doing great, the Saints beat us earlier this year (40-33 in Week 3) and now I’d like to return the favor. They also bring a lot of great fans to the game and that just ups the intensity.
It’s that time of year when everyone, even athletes, create a laundry list of things they want to do better in the New Year. I asked Brown what his resolutions were.
“I used to be big on New Year’s Resolutions, but why wait until January 1 to change something. There’s no better time than the present,” he says.
JL: That seems to fit you. Anything you’re currently working at doing better?
DB: Trying to read more. I get bored easily, and I’m trying to break out of the video game habit. I’m currently reading Art of War.
As I’m currently training for the upcoming Houston Half Marathon, I couldn’t help but wonder how far the big man himself could run.
JL:Could you run a mile without stopping?
DB: I could do a mile, yeah. It wouldn’t be pretty, but I could do it.
JL:What about a 5K?
DB: Nah, not a shot in hell.
JL: I know I keep harping on your size, but you are the largest man I’ve ever seen. It’s fascinating to me. Do you think you could fit in a smart car?
DB: [laughing] Yeah, I actually have. Danny Clark (former Texans linebacker) used to have one, and I could fit in there. It’s not comfortable though. It was a convertible, too, so I think that might have made it easier.
JL: I’d give money to see you in a smart car. If I could find a dealership and a photographer, are you game?
Hear that Houston Smart Car dealerships? Call me. Let’s make this happen.