- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 30, 2002

NEW ORLEANS — In Blackville, S.C., where Patriots receiver Troy Brown ran his first post patterns, you've got your Haves, and you've got your Have Nots. If you're one of the Have Nots and Brown, who grew up in a mobile home with a single mom, was definitely one of those "you're wearing your brother's [outgrown] shoes, and his pants maybe, and trying to find something to eat," he says.
And if you're one of the Haves?
Pause. "Well, to people who live in a big town like Boston, the Haves in Blackville probably seem like Have Nots, too."
Growing up in a rural town of 2,000 with a mom who worked all day in a factory, a summer job loading watermelons on trucks and a black-and-white TV with three channels was perfect preparation for the hand-to-mouth existence Brown would lead as a football player. Because for years, he was a Have Not on the playing field as well. Oh, he was a good athlete and everything, but not good enough to be recruited out of high school. It took a $500 scholarship to Lees-McRae Junior College to get his career going.
After that, Brown went to Marshall (a Division I-AA school at the time), got picked in the eighth round of the 1993 draft by New England and was released the following year at the end of training camp. The team re-signed him two months later to return kicks but it wasn't until his fifth season that he started a game as a receiver, and it wasn't until his seventh that he became a regular.
Aside from Kurt Warner's, there probably isn't a more unusual success story at this Super Bowl than Troy Brown's. How many wideouts languish in anonymity for that long and then suddenly become 101-catch Pro Bowl players? How many of them go from being Have Nots to being Haves at the age of 30?
"The way I was brought up just wouldn't allow me to quit," he says. "After the Patriots cut me, and I was out of football for seven or eight weeks, I was almost ready to make other plans you know, go back to school and finish my degree. But then they called and said, 'We need you to return punts.' Getting cut made me a better player. Before that I was just happy to be on the team, happy to be in the NFL."
Brown's many talents were on display in the Pats' 24-17 win over the Steelers on Sunday. In fact, he might have had one of the best all-around games in NFL postseason history. Not only did he grab eight passes for 121 yards a New England playoff record he also returned a punt 55 yards for a touchdown and scooped up a blocked field goal try and lateraled to teammate Antwan Harris for what turned out to be the winning score.
But then, that's Brown. If you need him to run back punts, even as an every-down receiver, he's happy to oblige. And if you need him to play on the punt-block unit, hey, anything to help.
"He's so unselfish," Tom Brady says. "Sometimes, when I haven't thrown to him much in a game, I'll go up to him on the sideline and say, 'Hang in there. I'm trying to get you the ball.' But you never have to worry about that with Troy, even though he's the best player on our team. He just says, 'Tom, don't worry about it. If David [Pattens] open, throw it to David.'"
Of course, if Terry Glenn's life hadn't turned into a soap opera flunking drug tests, feuding with management a lot of this might not be happening for Brown. Glenn is the club's most dangerous receiver, a guy who can stretch defenses. But with Terry mostly absent this season, Troy has become Brady's principal target.
"It was an opportunity for everybody to step up at our position, not just me," Brown corrects. "We lost a quality receiver. We thought we'd be terrible without him. But David Patten [51 catches], Charles Johnson, everybody contributed."
And now, as if a trip to Hawaii weren't enough, Brown gets to go for a ring against the St. Louis Rams. Better still, he has a chance to erase the painful memory of his last Super Bowl, five years ago, when he was waylaid by a hernia and forced to watch the proceedings from the New England sideline. The MVP of that game, you may recall, was the Packers' Desmond Howard, a kick returner and sometime receiver just like Brown was in those days.
"Special teams can always be the difference in a game like this," Brown says. Heck, between his heroics in the AFC title game and Adam Vinatieri's clutch kicking against the Raiders, special teams have been the difference in every postseason game the Patriots have played this year. If the Rams' kick-coverage teams give Troy some daylight, a little crack, they may live to regret it.
As the former Have Not says, "I'm the type of person, when I start something, I like to finish it."


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