Work in Sports
Bad, Bad Courtney Brown
Cleveland tabs Penn State DE to be cornerstone
Posted: Saturday April 15, 2000 11:48 PM
BEREA, Ohio (AP) -- The Cleveland Browns analyzed, dissected, interviewed and agonized. They searched for a reason not to take Courtney Brown with the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft.
They never found one.
Instead, they may have found the perfect player.
"You find someone better, and that man is Superman," Browns president Carmen Policy said.
Brown is a humble and soft-spoken defensive end from Penn State who terrorizes quarterbacks. He was chosen first Saturday by the Browns, who couldn't resist the 6-foot-5, 270-pounder's speed, class or position.
"I'm not perfect," he said. "Nobody's perfect. I just try to do the best I can."
The Brown surname is synonymous with Cleveland football greatness, and the Browns think the newest Brown can continue a legacy that includes team founder Paul Brown and Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown.
"I think if you drew up a football player, particularly a defensive football player, and put all the ingredients in you were looking for," Browns owner Al Lerner said. "You'd end up with Courtney Brown."
Brown, the Big Ten's defensive player of the year last season and Penn State's career sacks leader, agreed to a six-year contract with the Browns, who last year used the top selection on quarterback Tim Couch.
Couch was on stage at the draft in New York to greet Brown, who will immediately help a defense that had just 25 sacks and ranked last statistically in the NFL in '99.
"He's ideal," Lerner said. "He is the cornerstone. Tim is the cornerstone for the offense, and Courtney is for the defense. Hopefully, we can fill in the pieces."
In the past two weeks, the Browns narrowed their choice for the No. 1 pick to Brown or his Nittany Lions teammate, linebacker LaVar Arrington. The two defenders surged past Florida State wideout Peter Warrick, who if the draft had taken place in January would probably be with the Browns.
"When it came down to the overriding decision, it was about the position,"said Dwight Clark, Cleveland's director of football operations. "One could rush the passer every down, and we felt like that was a better fit for us."
Cleveland didn't complete a deal with Brown's agent, Marvin Demoff, until Saturday morning. Policy said one of the stumbling blocks was that the Browns wanted to give Brown a seven-year deal, but they gave in to Demoff's demand for a six-year contract.
"When we finally did that some other things fell into place," Policy said. "We are comfortable with the contract."
Policy said that with incentives, Brown's deal is in the $45 million range and includes a signing bonus of nearly $11 million. He said Brown will make more money in the first three years of his contract than is being paid to Couch, who got a seven-year, $48 million package last year.
Like Couch, Brown is from a tiny country town. His hometown of Alvin, S.C., which is about 35 miles from Charleston, has a population of 600, but no stoplight or movie theater.
And like Couch, Brown doesn't bring attention to himself until he straps on his shoulder pads and snaps his chin strap.
"I just try to let my actions speak for themselves," Brown said. "Actions speak louder than words. I just go out there and play, and let my game speak for itself."
Recent off-field trouble involving NFL players made character important in this draft. It may have contributed to the Browns passing on Warrick, suspended for two games last season in connection with a department store scam.
Cleveland never had to worry about Brown, but they did want to make sure they were getting a player capable of handling the pressure that goes with being a No. 1 pick.
"We touched as many people on the face of this earth who had come into contact with Courtney Brown," Policy said. "The worst thing we heard was from one of hit teachers who said, 'There is only one of him.''
Hoping to improve their team speed in every round, the Browns selected Arizona wide receiver Dennis Northcutt with the first pick (32nd overall) of the second round, and grabbed Miami of Ohio running back Travis Prentice with the first pick in Round 3.
With its second pick of the third round (79th), Cleveland took Tulane wide receiver JaJuan Dawson, who had 96 catches for the Green Wave last year.
Cleveland still has 10 picks to use Sunday in Rounds 4-7.
The 5-foot-10 Northcutt had 88 receptions for 1,422 yards last season for the Wildcats.
"He's the 32nd player taken and he has to come in and contribute to our football team right away," Palmer said.
Prentice, who many thought would get drafted earlier, scored an NCAA record 73 rushing TDs during his career with the RedHawks and also has national marks for points scored (468) and total TDs (78). He fumbled just twice in four years and went 862 carries without coughing up the ball.
He'll bolster the Browns' NFL worst rushing game which got a boost this winter when the team signed free-agent Errict Rhett.