To say Antonio Brown has been in the news lately would be a gross understatement.
Arguably the NFL’s best wide receiver, Brown has been generating constant headlines since the Raiders acquired his services in March, a relationship that came to an unceremonious end Saturday when Brown asked for and was granted his release before he ever played a game in Oakland.
In between those two dates came headache after headache, starting with a renegotiated contract that would guarantee Brown $30.13 million over the next three seasons and culminating with a shouting match between Brown and Raiders GM Mike Mayock, with a heaping helping of #HelmetGate and frostbitten feet sprinkled in throughout the summer.
So what happened? How does someone with so much talent, with so many resources and a contract he could live off for the rest of his life become so petulant?
It truly baffles me.
Every Friday night, Seth and I patrol the sidelines mere inches away from plenty of talented players. Some of them may be a little cocky, sure, but for the most part they’re all just happy to be there. When you ask them questions after the game, they heap praise on their teammates, and they mean it. It’s not just pomp and circumstance.
Friday night, Niceville quarterback Will Koch threw for 175 yards and two touchdowns, including a pair of passes that traveled at least 50 yards through the air. His big arm makes him a legitimate Division I talent, yet when asked how it feels to finally show off that arm, he singled out his receiving corps instead.
“I love throwing it deep to these fast guys,” he said. “They’re making me look good running deep down the field.”
Azareyeh Thomas with the INT sets up Will Koch for this 37-yard TD pass. Niceville up 15-7 with under a minute left in the half.pic.twitter.com/uTra1z2aeV— Sam Grubenhoff (@SamGrubenhoff)September 7, 2019
And it’s not like Koch’s comment is some isolated incident. Each of the area’s other Dandy Dozen selections was effusive in their praising of teammates at the Dandy Dozen photo shoot in early August.
By his own admission, Crestview center Cade Kootsouradis might be the fourth or fifth best player on his own team behind guys such as Taylor Scarbrough, Marquis McCoy, Rawson Mack and Chris Johns.
“I don’t think I could just single one out,” he said.
Yet Kootsouradis is bound for Georgia Tech next year on a football scholarship, the most high-profile recruiting story in Okaloosa County this season.
He’s humble beyond all reasonable expectation given his status.
Count recently graduated area football stars such as Juanyeh Thomas (Georgia Tech), Dante Wright (Colorado State) and the Voisin brothers (South Alabama) in the same category.
So where is the disconnect? At what point and how does a Will Koch, a Cade Kootsouradis, a Dante Wright turn into an Antonio Brown?
Bare in mind, Brown is from Miami. He played for 6A Miami Norland and had to walk on at Central Michigan before Pittsburgh selected him with a sixth-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.
His path is not all that dissimilar to the one many of the talented athletes in our county will walk.
So was it the money? The power? The people in his circle whispering sweet nothings in the ears he seems dead set on protecting with a faulty helmet?
I don’t know. I’m not close to the situation. I’ve never been a rich, talented, professional athlete — and at this point I never will be, unless it's bowling or cornhole.
But I do know this: Talent gets you in the door, but hard work and humility keep you in the house.
The New England Patriots might be giving Brown a second (third?) chance and $9 million guaranteed, but those chances will run out eventually.
Even a talent like Antonio Brown has a shelf life.