Tony Brown was a three-year starter on the defensive line for the University of Memphis. He’s been around the NFL and even NFL Europe. Now he’s a key piece of the stout Tennessee Titans defense who just signed a 3-year, $17 million contract extension. The former Tiger turned Titan sat down with Memphis Sport to talk about defense, the best food in the state, DeAngelo vs. CJ, and more.
How does it feel to get your contract extension done, now knowing that you’ll be with the Titans for another three seasons?
It definitely makes me appreciate things. I’ve been working my tail off, you know, and it finally happened for me despite all the obstacles I had to go through to get here. It’s definitely a good feeling to play hard and get rewarded for it.
Just how rewarding is it for a guy like you; someone who wasn’t a first round draft pick, who worked his way through a number of NFL rosters and even NFL Europe’s Amsterdam Admirals?
I can’t even really explain it. You know, it does something for me and my family; it sets us up for the rest of our lives. I tell some of our younger guys you’ve just got to keep going hard and eventually it’ll pay off for you and in my situation it did. I’m just excited about everything.
You started your Titans career in 2006 by coming in to help on the defensive line while Albert Haynesworth served a five game suspension. What was that situation like?
When I got here I couldn’t be a guy that replaced him because he’s a guy that had been outstanding since he’d been here but at the same time I felt like they gave me this chance, this opportunity, and while I’m here I’m going to make it hard for them to get rid of me. I made sure I came in and showed them I really wanted to be here. Not only did I want to be here but I deserved to be here by showing them my heart and my dedication. I had never met him but when he got back I told him I appreciated it because that gave me an opportunity.
Yeah. Thanks for getting suspended, buddy. That helped me out.
You were recently activated off the Physically Unable to Perform list. How are you feeling now that the season has begun?
I played in the last preseason game and I felt good. I’ve been running around and practicing with the team. All I need to do is just hone in because my reps were down but I got to spend a lot of time in the film room so I look at it as a gift and not a curse that I wasn’t practicing. So I’ve been running around with the team and we’ve been looking real good so far.
After a career high five sacks last season, what are your expectations for yourself and the team this season?
Honestly man, I want to make last year my worst year. I think I did a pretty good job so I’m going to try to do better than what I did. I feel like if I do a better job it’s going to help guys around me, as far as the defense, and help the team win games. I don’t have any goals as far as numbers. I just want to stay healthy. If I stay healthy then the football part will take care of itself.
Being a former Tiger and playing just up the road, how closely do you follow the football team now?
Well I know that got some new things going. I think coach Porter’s going to get those guys going. It’s been a slow start for them but I think they’re going to be fine.
As a defensive guy, does it hurt a little to see how their defense has struggled a little over the past few years?
It is because when we were there our defense was pretty good. But when we were there our offense wasn’t all that. Now the offense has gotten better and the defense is trying to works its way back up that ladder, but I think they’ll be fine because they’ve got a lot of younger guys, too. They’ve just got to buy into the system.
The controversy here for years has been about an on-campus football stadium. Do you think that would be a good thing for the university?
I think it would. When I was down there, there were a lot of people that wanted to go to games. There were a lot of students that didn’t have cars and going to the Liberty Bowl was kind of out of the way. You think of all these other schools that have the stadium right there in the middle of campus and people can walk right there. I think it’d definitely help. It wouldn’t hurt.
When DeAngelo Williams came in as a freshman in your senior season, could you and your teammates tell how good he was going to be?
Oh yeah. We knew it from day one in like the first week of training camp. We knew it because he came to straight work. He was a younger guy and he was humble and he’s still the same way now. And it paid off for him because he’s one of the best in the league right now.
So you briefly played with a record-breaking running back in college and now you have a record-breaking running back on your team right now in Chris Johnson. If you had to choose one, who would it be?
If it was me, I’d go with CJ. Not just because he’s on my team and it’s nothing against DeAngelo but I’m going to definitely take CJ. He’s got a lot of people gunning for him and it’s just like he knows what to do when people are coming for him. He’s just a good back.
So Chris Johnson has said he’s going to break Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing record of 2,105 yards. Do you think he’s going to do it?
I think he can definitely do it. If we stop the ball and give him an opportunity then I think so.
What team has been the toughest to defend?
Indianapolis. There not one of those teams that’s just going to pound you. The way their scheme is and the way Peyton throws it. You know, you can’t trick him with a blitz or anything because he’ll see it coming a mile away.
Would you rather play a team like the Colts or a team like Baltimore or Pittsburgh who’s just going to run it right at you?
Yeah I’d rather play against one of those teams with a big, strong, physical offensive line that are just going to come at you. That way you know what you’re going to get on this down and distance.
Who is the best offensive lineman you’ve faced?
Overall I’d have to say Chester Pitts, the guard who was at Houston. He didn’t get all the credit he deserved because he was in Houston, but guys respect him around the league. They knew that he was going to bring it. He’s a big, tall, strong guy and he’s athletic. He’s in Seattle now though.
Who do you root for when the Tigers play your hometown UTC Mocs?
Oh I’m definitely going with the Tigers. I didn’t even get a scholarship offer. I didn’t even get a letter from UT-Chat so I’m definitely going with the Tigers.
Favorite place to eat in Memphis?
Ooh, I’ve got two spots. I’m going to have to go to the Rendezvous. No, Butchershop.
You’re from Chattanooga. You lived and played here in Memphis and now you’ve been in Nashville for a few years. Rank the cities.
I’m going to definitely go Chattanooga, Nashville then Memphis.
Oh come on a little! That hurts.
I’ve got to go with my home because they’ve treated me well and I like it here. Memphis was a great stop during the time I was there, though.
Well which city has the best food?
Oh Memphis. No doubt about it.
By Jan Michael Hartelust, Photos by the Tennessee Titans/Donn Jones Photography