Next chapter for former Austin, Alabama star Deonte Brown starts with NFL draft

Apr. 29—In recent years, Deonte Brown has watched the NFL draft with interest.

That's what happens when you play for the Alabama Crimson Tide. There are ample opportunities to see the lives of teammates changed when they're selected by NFL organizations.

When this year's draft begins tonight, Brown will have more than just an interest. His name is expected to be called sometime during the three-day event.

"It's definitely an exciting time and I am a little nervous," Brown said. "I just want to be drafted. It's been a dream of mine for a long time."

The 6-foot-4, 344-pound Austin High alumnus brings impressive credentials into the draft. Foremost is the five years he's spent under the leadership of highly successful coach Nick Saban while playing on two national championship teams.

"I feel like I've been preparing for the NFL since the day I got to Tuscaloosa," Brown said.

There are more positives for Brown. His elite strength makes him one of the top drive blockers in the draft. In 865 snaps at Alabama, the left guard never allowed a quarterback sack.

Professional teams likely will have some concerns about Brown. One is whether an athlete his size is nimble enough to be successful in the NFL. Some observers of Brown during his week in January at the Senior Bowl in Mobile felt he struggled with pass protection. Because the NFL has become such a pass-happy league, being able to pass protect is a top priority for any offensive lineman.

Another possible concern stems from Brown's six-game suspension that ended in September 2019 during his junior season at Alabama. No public statement has been made on the reason for the suspension and whether it was imposed by the school or the NCAA.

Speculation from those who make a living predicting where and when players will be selected in the draft has been mixed when it comes to Brown. Six months ago some had him going near the end of the first round. Most recently, Brown has been tagged as a third or fourth round selection.

"I'll just be happy to be with the team that wants me the most," Brown said. "I've talked to a lot of teams that seem really interested in me."

Why does Brown think a team should draft him?

"Because I know how to win and I know how to compete," Brown said.

It's been quite a ride for Brown from his early years in Columbus, Ohio, where he was born, to moving to the Decatur hometown of his father Al Pettus. He was playing football at Decatur's Brookhaven Middle School when Austin head coach Jeremy Perkins first saw him.

"Coach Perkins and Coach (Matt) Praytor (then Austin offensive line coach) helped me realize what I could be, and they helped prepare me to play at Alabama," Brown said. "There are a lot of similarities in how Coach Perkins and Coach Saban run their programs. Every day is about working to be the best you can be and preparing for the next level."

Brown was a two-time All-State selection at Austin in 2014 and 2015. He was the Class 6A Lineman of the Year in 2015, played in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star game and in the Under Armor All-Star game.

"We're really proud of Deonte and excited for what's ahead," Perkins said. "He shows if you dedicate yourself and work hard that great opportunities can come your way."

Shortly after Alabama whipped Ohio State, 52-24, in January to win the Crimson Tide another national championship, Brown's attention turned to preparing for the draft. He headed to Texas for special physical training to prepare for the Alabama NFL Pro Day that was held March 23.

"I needed a change of scenery and Texas was a good place to go," Brown said. "I worked with a trainer who works with Pat Mahomes (Kansas City Chiefs quarterback). I wanted to improve my mobility and just be more nimble. I know it really helped me."

In the process, Brown also dropped 20 pounds to 344 thanks in part to a healthier diet.

"I just started to eat better," Brown said. "I was already eating healthy, but I've cut back on a lot of things trying to eat more clean. Not as much red meat has helped. I don't feel like I've lost any strength. I'm still able to bench really well. I just had to slim down a little bit."

Now all Brown can do is sit back and see what happens. He and his wife Samantha plan to chill out in Tuscaloosa with their two dogs and watch the draft. He has an agent, Nicole Lynn with Young Money APAA Sports based in Dallas.

"Nicole is the only Black female sports agent in the country," Brown said. "I met her through Quinnen Williams, who was my teammate at Alabama before he got drafted by the Jets. Nicole is someone I feel I can trust with my business.

"That's really important because the draft can change my life and my family's life. Hopefully, it will create generational wealth for my family."

Brown is an NFL fan, but right now he said there's no wish list for a team to draft him.

"I'll be happy to go to whichever team feels like I'll be a good fit," Brown said. "I think I have a lot to give to a team. I feel like my best days are ahead of me." or 256-340-2395. Twitter @DD_DavidElwell.