Auburn University

‘We can do more.’ Why new father Derrick Brown returned to Auburn over NFL Draft

Auburn’s Derrick Brown talks about setting an example for younger players at SEC Media Days 2019

Auburn's Derrick Brown spoke with media at SEC Media Days 2019 about the importance of setting an example for younger players.
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Auburn's Derrick Brown spoke with media at SEC Media Days 2019 about the importance of setting an example for younger players.

Fans didn’t expect to see Derrick Brown speaking this year at SEC Media Days.

Many expected the Auburn senior to declare for the NFL Draft after last season. After all, the defensive tackle and three-year starter racked up 115 career tackles (21 for loss) and nine sacks across 40 games.

But there he was, dressed in a gray suit and blue tie with an Auburn pin on his jacket, speaking to media in a cold conference room at a Hoover, Alabama, hotel.

Brown is serving as the president of Auburn’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee this year. His brother, Kameron Brown, signed with Auburn in February (a “big factor” in Derrick’s return), and his son, Kai, was born just before the Tigers’ Music City Bowl win over Purdue.

Brown was named to the All-SEC second team in both the Coaches poll and Associated Press.

On paper, it might appear Brown has accomplished enough. But there he was, preparing for another go-round on the Plains.

“I thought about (coming back) for a while,” Brown said. “I was excited to go see my son after the bowl game. That was the biggest thing for me. … (My decision) took a few days.”

Brown said he spoke with head coach Gus Malzahn and defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, then ultimately decided to turn down the NFL for one more season at Auburn.

The reasons, Brown said, had to do with family (specifically his seven-month-old son), and that it was more important to him to finish his degree. That after the fame of football passes by, he’ll still have a degree to fall back on.

“I believe that athletes have more of a platform than what people give them credit for,” Brown said. “Some people say, ‘it’s just football players,’ this and that, well, I know a lot more than the average guy and I’m here to show that. … We (student athletes) can do more”

Brown echoed the sentiments of his coach and teammates, and said that the goal for the Tigers is to reach the SEC Championship and a national championship. Obviously, that’s easier said than done. The Tigers open with Oregon, then face a gauntlet of a schedule that includes facing LSU, Florida, Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama.

Expectations are high despite the tough schedule and question marks surrounding the Tigers’ offense. Not many question marks focus around Brown’s position group, though.

The Tigers’ defensive line includes Brown, Marlon Davidson, Nick Coe and others. It’s been lauded as one of the top defensive lines in the nation, and it’s arguably the most talented position group on the team.

The question of whether that will be enough for the Tigers to take that next step — and compete for an SEC Championship and College Football Playoff spot — will not be answered until August 31, when the Tigers face the Ducks in Arlington, Texas (7:30 p.m., ABC).

Getting Brown back gives a nice little boost.

“It really starts with our defensive line, and the three guys that chose to come back, you know, with Derrick, Marlon, and the addition of Nick Coe,” Malzahn said. “With the other guys they have, we really feel like we have a chance to be dominant on the defensive line.”

Keep up with the Ledger-Enquirer’s coverage of Auburn athletics here, and follow along on Twitter (@WarEagleExtra and @JoshDMixon) and Facebook.

Joshua Mixon is a reporter for the Ledger-Enquirer. He covers sports (Auburn and preps) and local news, and is a member of the Football Writers Association of America. He previously covered Georgia athletics for the Macon Telegraph. You can follow him on Twitter @JoshDMixon.