Courtney Brown’s goal at San Jose State’s Pro Day last Tuesday was to put up some numbers that would catch the attention of NFL scouts and executives.
Brown, a cornerback who forced teams to throw away from him throughout his senior season at Cal Poly in 2006, ran the fastest 40-yard dash time at the Pro Day – 4.32 seconds.
“I told scouts when they came to the season, I was going to run in the low 4.4s or 4.3s,” Brown said Monday. “We knew what I could do.”
Not only that, but 6-foot-2, 205-pound Brown posted the highest vertical leap at 41 1/2 inches. He was second at the event in the 10-yard dash (1.46 seconds), fourth in the shuttle (4.07 seconds) and had marks of 15 reps in the 225-pound bench press and 7.1 seconds in the three-cone drill.
“It obviously helps,” Brown said of what the Pro Day does for his NFL Draft stock. “It gets people’s attention. That’s what we’re out for. Hopefully they’ll pay attention and invite me to more workouts.”
Pro Days are crucial for players such as Brown who, for whatever reason, were not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine and are trying to raise their stock for the April 28 to 29 NFL Draft.
Brown said he also plans on participating at Cal Poly’s Pro Day on March 26. He worked out at San Jose State with five graduating teammates – nose tackle Chris White, free safety Kenny Chicoine, offensive tackle Josh Mayfield, receiver/cornerback Anthony Randolph and kicker/punter Nick Coromelas.
Having the Mustangs participate in San Jose State’s Pro Day made sense because the San Jose State athletic department’s director of strength and conditioning, Chris Holder, served as Cal Poly’s strength and conditioning head coach from 2002-05. He then left to join the Spartans in January 2006.
Brown said it could help having worked out in front of scouts against players from San Jose State, a resurgent Division I-A team that defeated Cal Poly 17-7 last year on its way to a 20-12 win over New Mexico in the New Mexico Bowl.
Cal Poly defensive backs coach Johnny Burnett said Monday that Brown’s rare combination of size (6-2, 205) and speed (4.32) bodes well for his future.
“All those things they look for,” Burnett said. “When you go through all the corners in the NFL, the number of them that are over 6-1 is very small. The guys that are the quickest and all that stuff are smaller guys. I’ve coached a couple first-round draft choices and they didn’t run those times.”
In fact, while serving as defensive co-coordinator and secondary coach at Oklahoma State from 1996-98, Burnett coached two corners – R.W. McQuarters and Kevin Williams – who were chosen in the first and third rounds, respectively, of the 1998 NFL Draft.
“Those guys are 5-10 and 5-11,” Burnett said. “That’s the way most of those (fast) guys are. There’s a Champ Bailey that’s maybe 6-1, the guy from Michigan (Charles Woodson) who was a good corner. There’s not a lot who are tall and can run and do the things they’re looking for.”
Burnett said NFL personnel have been calling Cal Poly to verify Brown’s numbers.
“I think that now he’s posted those numbers, that will help him in the eyes of people who maybe weren’t (previously) interested,” Burnett said. “He’s got the size, he’s a good student, he’s never in trouble off the field. He’s a good special teams player.”
Brown exploded onto the NFL Draft radar with a breakout junior season in 2005 in which he returned a I-AA school-record seven interceptions for 54 yards and a touchdown and was named a second-team I-AA All-America pick by The Associated Press. He was pivotal in helping the Mustangs garner national attention with a first-ever trip to the I-AA playoffs that included a 35-21 first-round win at Montana.
“It was big,” Brown said of his junior season. “I’m glad that I had a year like that. Coming from Cal Poly, a small school, people came and watched. Jordan (Beck) and (Chris) Gocong helped a lot too.”
Beck, a middle linebacker, and Gocong, a defensive end, won back-to-back Buck Buchanan Awards as seniors in 2004 and 2005 before becoming third-round draft choices of the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles, respectively.
Teams threw away from Brown on the vast majority of their passing plays in 2006, although he still came up with 51 tackles (33 solo) and seven pass deflections.
As a true freshman wide receiver in 2002, Brown hauled in nine passes for 139 yards.
Brown said he enjoys watching corners such as Denver’s Champ Bailey and Baltimore’s Chris McAlister – whom Cal Poly head coach Rich Ellerson coached as defensive coordinator at Arizona from 1997-2000 – but does not yet compare himself to one NFL defensive back or another.
It does not matter to Brown what system he plays in at the next level – 4-3, 3-4, Cover 2, whatever.
“It doesn’t matter at all to me,” Brown said. “I’ll play anything they throw at me.”
As far as where he hopes to go in the draft, Brown said “it’s too early to tell. I still have more workouts and stuff to do before I know anything.”
Brown’s agent is Santa Monica-based Michael R. Hoffman, whose Premier Sports Management group also represents Gocong, St. Louis running back Steven Jackson and receiver Drew Bennett and Cleveland outside linebacker Willie McGinest, among others.
Hoffman said Monday that the only defensive backs at the combine in February to be at least 6-foot and 200 pounds and run a 40-yard dash in the 4.3-second range were LSU safety LaRon Landry and Fresno State cornerback Marcus McCauley, who are widely expected to be first-round picks.
“(Brown’s) workout without question was that of a first-round pick,” Hoffman said. “It put him firmly on the NFL’s radar. It’s gotten a lot of people excited about him. I would imagine – who wouldn’t be interested in a cornerback that has size and speed?”
Brown is not the only Cal Poly player who will get looks from NFL scouts on March 26. Another prominent one is middle linebacker Kyle Shotwell, who won the Buchanan Award last season and led the East-West Shrine Game in tackles (seven) in January.
“It says a lot about how the program turned around,” Brown said of the pipeline to the NFL that Cal Poly has established. “When I first got here, we were 3-8. Now we’re pretty much expected to make it (to the playoffs). It just says a lot about how we turned it around.”