Many reasons why ex-Auburn star is draft's best back
Posted: Tuesday March 1, 2005 12:07PM; Updated: Tuesday March 1, 2005 12:40PM
Ronnie Brown left many defenders in his wake in his successful career at Auburn.
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Thanks to Maurice Clarett, one of the most impressive performers at last weekend's NFL Scouting Combine didn't get his proper recognition. I'm speaking of Auburn's Ronnie Brown. While Clarett was running two 40-yard dashes with the sluggishness of a man who just had left a post-Oscars party, Brown was doing what he's always done -- showing up, putting his work in and dazzling everyone with his myriad skills.
I bring up Brown because it's about time more people started talking about him. He spent most of his college career playing second fiddle to his good friend Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, but now he's finally snatching the spotlight for himself. After Brown clocked two scintillating 40-yard dash times in Indianapolis (one officially was at 4.46 while another, unofficially, came in at 4.32), the buzz coming out of the Combine was Brown may be the best all-around running back in this year's draft. It's a fair argument. In today's NFL, a 6-foot, 233-pounder with his speed and versatility would be quite a prize.
I also like Brown for another reason: his attitude. He didn't have to run last Saturday. He was projected as a top-10 pick going into the Combine. Blessed with such a lofty status, he could've attended the event, taken his physical, smiled his way through an assortment of interviews and told all the scouts, coaches and executives that he'd be ready for his personal workout in a few weeks. After all, he could've lost more with a bad 40 time than he would've gained with a good one. That was the attitude taken by Texas star running back Cedric Benson, a likely top-five pick who opted to wait until his pro day to work out for scouts.
Brown didn't have any problems with taking a chance (neither did Williams, for that matter, who also ran a sub-4.5 40). That gives him major bonus points in my eyes. I'm a fan of any kid who doesn't fear competition, or the possibility that he might fail. When a guy with nothing to prove still wants to show what he can do, he's the person you want carrying the ball on fourth-and-1.
Of course, this isn't news for Auburn fans. They've known about Brown's character for five years. He has been half of college football's best backfield combination in recent memory, but he also has had a rougher road to success than Williams. Injuries forced Brown to redshirt after he played three games as a freshman behind current Cincinnati Bengals star Rudi Johnson. The arrival of Williams the following year forced Brown to remain a backup when he appeared to be next in line for the tailback job. Even after gaining 1,008 yards while spelling an injured Williams as a sophomore, Brown found himself back in a reserve role a year later, splitting carries with Williams in the Tigers' one-back offense.