Colts get their man in UConn’s Donnie Brown

RBC product expected to make instant impact


There was a common perception about the University of Connecticut’s DonaldBrown heading into Saturday’s National Football League Draft.

Scouts, general managers and coaches all agreed, if Brown’s dream of becoming a standout NFL player were to fall short, it would not be due to a lack of effort or preparation. The consensus was that this was a young man who has excelled at every level he’s played, and is absolutely ready to perform at the highest level.

As a result, Brown’s stock in the draft rose considerably with every predraft interview and workout he offered, as his passion, attitude and maturity continued to impress everyone he came across.

As a result, Brown, of Atlantic Highlands, was being talked about as one of the sleepers in the draft — someone who would be selected earlier than previously anticipated.

As it turned out, Brown was grabbed by a team that appears to be the perfect place for someone of his character and ability. Donald Brown, the pride of Red Bank Catholic, is now an Indianapolis Colt.

Indianapolis selected Brown with the 27th pick despite the fact that they have a Pro Bowl tailback in Joseph Addai. That’s how highly they thought of him.

The addition of Brown to the Colts’ Peyton Manning-led offense should make for a perfect combination, as Brown’s intelligence and adaptability will instantly make him yet another weapon at Manning’s disposal.

Brown’s bio states he has “outstanding speed, quickness and vision. He excels at running between the tackles and is an ideal fit in the Colts’ zone-based running game. With Addai suffering from durability issues, Brown could blossom as a rotational player.”

In fact, the Colts are hoping that Brown will help lengthen Addai’s career.

“It’s important to have two good backs in your system,” said head coach Jim Caldwell, who replaces Tony Dungy this season. “There’s no question about that because of the fact that the workload that’s put on that position week in and week out. You need two guys that can carry the mail for you. At least two. ” With the selection of Brown being universally lauded thus far, nobody is happier than the brilliant tailback from the Jersey Shore.

“I’m happy. I’m relieved. I’m excited,” said Brown. “Once my phone started ringing, my heart dropped. It was very exciting.

“Any way they need me, whether it’s special teams, third-down situations, whatever. That’s what I’m there for,” he added. “I just want to be as versatile as possible. The more assets you can bring to a team, the more successful you’ll be. I’m willing to block, catch the ball out of the backfield and run between and outside the tackles.”

Colts Team President Bill Polian (who is renowned for his ability to draft quality tailbacks) said that picking Brown was essentially a no-brainer. “It’s a good time anytime you get a guy who’s a game-breaker,” said Polian. “You feel good about it. He was, in our opinion, the best player left.”

Polian added that even though a lot of teams were high on Brown following his strong predraft courting period, he was not altogether surprised to find him available.

“It was pretty much where we thought he was scheduled to go off [the draft board],” he said. “We were very prepared to make the pick. We feel very good about it. This guy is a game-breaker. He has the ability to take the ball all the way. You’ve seen some of the highlights, I’m sure. He’s a great kid, and we’re thrilled to have him.

“We said, ‘Here’s a guy that fits everythingwewant as a football player. There isn’t a thing wrong with him. He’s everything we would like to have in a Colts player.’ ”

Brown’s résumé is an impressive one. During his memorable career at RBC, Brown was named first-team all-division, All-Monmouth County and All-Jersey Shore, in addition to earning second-team all-state honors as a senior — when the Divisional Offensive MVP and team captain rushed for 2,032 yards and scored 27 touchdowns. He also lettered six times on the school’s indoor and outdoor track teams, and was the recipient of the All-American Scholar Award.

Brown enrolled at Connecticut in 2005 (mainly because of the school’s outstanding kinesiology program), and quickly became the team’s top offensive player on the Huskies’ scout team while redshirting that season.

In 2006, Brown earned All-Big East Conference recognition, taking over as the team’s starting tailback for four games after Terry Caulley was injured, and leading the team with 896 yards and seven touchdowns on 161 carries (5.6 avg.) in 12 games. He ran for 118 yards and two touchdowns on just nine attempts in his college debut vs. Rhode Island and totaled 205 yards rushing vs. Pittsburgh, the 14th time a Connecticut player totaled more than 200 yards on the ground in a game.

Brown’s sophomore season was cut short when he suffered an ankle sprain in the team’s sixth game. When he returned, he was used in a reserve role, but still piled up 821 yards on 170 runs (4.8 avg.) that included eight touchdowns.

In 2008, Brown won his starting job back, and promptly became the first player in school history to lead the nation in rushing, averaging 160.23 yards per game. The nation’s only 2,000-yard rusher set school and Big East Conference season records with 2,083 yards on 367 carries (5.7 avg.). He also scored on 18 rushes and finished third on the squad with 21 receptions, good for 125 yards (6.0 avg.).

As great as Brown’s numbers are on the field, he is an even more impressive young man off the field. He was the face of the UConn program due to his work within the community and recently began work on organizing a mentoring program for high school players from the Shore Conference. He also unveiled plans to present the Donald Brown Player-to-Player Leadership Conference back in his home state.

“Donnie understands the importance of giving back and how to prepare for life after football, his former head coach at RBC, Frank Edgerly, said.

“He has a great perspective on life.”

Brown credits his mentors for instilling that sense of philanthropy in him.

“My parents [Donald Sr. and Lisa] have been there every step of the way,” he said. “They’re great. They shaped me into the man that I am today. And also my high school coach, and [UConn head] Coach [[Randy] Edsall. I’m blessed to have been surrounded by great people.”

Brown now joins a Colts’ team that is among the NFL’s most respected organizations, led by one of the League’s most talented and personable stars in Manning. Understandably, Brown is eager for the opportunity to line up behind one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game.

“What an honor,” he said. “It’s definitely great to play with one of the best.”

Should Brown continue to thrive as he has throughout his career, the people of Indianapolis will quickly realize what those throughout the Shore and UConn communities have known for a while — Donald Brown is a special player on and off the field, and is exactly the type of player you love to root for.