RENTON, WA - Entering the 2021 NFL Draft with just three selections in tow, the Seahawks defied expectations by staying put at their first scheduled pick: No. 56, taking receiver D'Wayne Eskridge out of Western Michigan. As a result, they would have to wait another 73 picks, and then eight more following a subsequent trade-down with the Buccaneers, before making their next choice.
Finally, John Schneider was able to do what he's done so many times in his 12 years as Seattle's general manager: change the life of an NFL hopeful with a mere phone call. The appearance of a 206 area code - or any area code associated with an NFL organization's region for that matter - is often enough to bring an aspiring professional football player to tears on draft week. And if that doesn't do it, hearing confirmation of their accomplishment - the words of a general manager; the announcement on a nearby television - almost certainly will.
But Schneider's call to Oklahoma cornerback Tre Brown, after the Seahawks made the decision to select him at pick No. 137, went differently than most.
"Hey Tre, this is John Schneider with the Seattle Seahawks, buddy, how are you doing?"
"I'm doing good, man, how are you?" Brown casually replied.
Once Schneider broke the news to his newest cornerback, Brown remained as collected as possible. "I'm excited," he said before releasing a small laugh - perhaps out of relief, a sense of disbelief, or both - as Schneider passed the phone to head coach Pete Carroll.
As Carroll addressed the latest in a long line of day three corners taken by the Seahawks, it was back to business. Brown's voice assuredly responded to his coach's challenge of competition: "Yes, sir."
Exactly two weeks later, Brown and 30 other eligible players have wrapped up the second day of rookie minicamp at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center. Now, faces are put to voices and hours of tape study, with Seattle's coaching staff getting its first direct look at the Oklahoma native. And so far, he hasn't disappointed.
“Yesterday he did a really nice job of demonstrating that he understands how the game works," Carroll told reporters Saturday afternoon. "He stayed on top of everything, he was in the right spots. He looked very comfortable. He looked very fast, very speedy out there.”
Brown's speed has become a major talking point since the draft. Left disappointed with the 4.42-second 40-yard dash time he posted at his pro day in early March, the 23-year old corner wasn't modest about his abilities.
Asked which NFL receiver he was most looking forward to covering at the next level, Brown didn't beat around the bush: "Definitely DK Metcalf," who, ironically, has since become his teammate in Seattle.
"Am I faster than him? If we add it up, definitely. You can tell him right there, if you’re close to DK Metcalf, tell him we can line that up, definitely.”
While it may come off as hubris to some, Brown may have a point. In the 2019 Big 12 championship, he recorded the highest top speed tracked by Next Gen Stats of 23.3 miles per hour in his chase-down of Baylor receiver and former track star Chris Platt. This includes NFL players such as Metcalf and Tyreek Hill, who've taken the league by storm with their game-breaking speed.
Brown's speed hasn't only helped him set records and become an excellent special teams player, but it's allowed him to play effectively aggressive in pass coverage as well. It's the kind of speed that lets him close in the blink of an eye out of zone coverage, and keep in line with the fastest receivers in man-to-man scenarios. And he does it with a great deal of confidence, which has caught the attention of his new head coach.
“He looks like he’s going to be a real competitive player," said Carroll. "And he made a couple plays out here today that did catch my eye. He’s very bursty and looks like he’s going to take his shots and be an aggressive corner and that’s what he showed in college and he showed it out here in a couple spots today.”
While that aggressiveness got the better of him at times in college, leading to a whopping 17 penalties over his last two seasons, it worked out for him more often than not. In his final 24 games at Oklahoma, Brown allowed a meager opponent passer rating of 58.2. Even better, in single coverage, he ranked tops amongst all 2021 prospects with a mark of 26.9 in 2020.
Standing at 5-foot-9 with sub 30-inch arms, Brown is far off from the prototypical build the Seahawks have long coveted at outside corner. But with the rise of a similarly built player in D.J. Reed towards the end of the 2020 season, Carroll and his staff have made changes to their philosophy.
As of now, Reed appears locked into one of the starting outside corner spots without contest. That leaves Brown to compete with Tre Flowers and free agent additions Ahkello Witherspoon and Pierre Desir for the other. But would the Seahawks really start two "undersized" players on the outside?
"It's a little bit wild," Brown explained in regards to the possibility of him and Reed starting opposite one another. "Who knows? You never know. We're out here - everybody's out here - competing. All those corners are great, so we're gonna see what happens at the end of camp."
Stepping into a storied franchise known for its development of top-shelf cornerbacks, there will be a learning curve for Brown from a technique standpoint. But when it comes to the step-kick and some of the other techniques Seattle teaches its pass defenders, he boasts a good level of comfortability that stems from a place of experience.
"You gotta have repetition. I was mostly an inch mirror/punch guy. ... I've also had the step-kick, but I haven't done that for a while. So it's all about getting back to that, getting used to that, and just repping that so I can perfect it."
During workouts, Brown could be seen working on his technique with fellow rookie corner Bryan Mills, who signed with the Seahawks as an undrafted free agent out of North Carolina Central.
"I feel like I'm picking it up fast and I'm excited to put it into the future."
With Carroll watching closely, Brown understands the need to pay attention to every minute detail as a Seahawk. Working with Seattle defensive pass game coordinator Andre Curtis, he's quickly catching on to what it takes to play cornerback in the Pacific Northwest.
"Man, I love Coach Curtis—he's a guru," Brown gushed. "He knows everything that he's talking about and what I love most about him is, he speaks more on life things. He tries to educate you on the outside world and also football. So he's teaching us the best of both worlds, he knows what he's talking about, and he's been through it all. It's a wonderful feeling just to learn from that guy and he knows what he's doing."
As for working with Carroll directly, Brown doesn't feel intimidated by the legendary defensive backs guru and looks forward to soaking up his football acumen.
"It's a great opportunity. Learn as much as you can—as possible," Brown explained. "People got different outlooks on how they look at things and if you look at that with a negative aspect, you know, you're not gonna get anywhere. ... If it's nerve-racking, that could lead you the wrong way. So I look at it as a great opportunity for me to learn and learn as much as I can from that guy and take it."
If he fails to earn a starting job, it won't be for a lack of mental fortitude. Amidst his sophomore season in college, Brown's mother, Beverly Brewer, passed away on October 15, 2018. Just days later, he returned for Oklahoma's 52-17 victory over TCU.
"I leaned on my teammates, I leaned on my family out there, and that was something she would've wanted me to do anyway."
The NFL has never been one for the weak-hearted, and Brown's very much aware of that. Through his mother's teachings, he isn't afraid to face conflict and adversity head on.
"[Her death] motivated me even more, knowing that my mom was watching. So even though I'm dealing with adversity, I wanted to show her that I could fight through that adversity like she could fight through that adversity, and kept a smile on her face when she was going through the same thing."
Perhaps it's the reason Brown appears so reserved on the outside, whether it be in his introductory press conference or his initial phone call with Schneider and Carroll. Staying graceful and humble even after the accomplishment of making it to the NFL is a key focus of his, no matter what happens in the future. For him, complacency isn't an option.
"It just taught me to be grateful and do everything with grace, 'cause you never know when your time is coming."