- Associated Press - Monday, May 16, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Three-time Super Bowl champion Troy Brown couldn’t help but smile after once again proving doubters wrong.

The 5-foot-10 receiver, continually told he was too small for football, is in several Hall of Fames after a stellar career that included success with the New England Patriots, the Marshall Thundering Herd and his own Blackville-Hilda High School. Now he can add his home state to that list; Brown is part of a class of eight enshrined in the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame.

“At the end of the day, you’ve got to sit down and see if the guy can play,” Brown said. “I was always determined to prove people wrong.”

Brown, from Barnwell, South Carolina, did that at every level of the game.

He helped Blackville-Hilda win a state title in 1988, Marshall a Division I-AA championship and the Patriots to the start of their current NFL dynasty with Super Bowl victories in 2001, 2003 and 2004. He left the Patriots as their all-time receptions leader with 557 catches over 15 seasons.

“I was always trying to do something to improve,” Brown said, citing working in fields with friends in South Carolina pulling in crops or getting in extra runs to increase his stamina.

After his time at Blackville-Hilda High, Brown had hoped to get a look from the state’s biggest colleges, Clemson and South Carolina. Again, his talent was minimized because of his height and lack of breakaway speed.

“It was just a constant determination to always be better,” he said. “You have that chip on your shoulder to prove people wrong.”

At lower-level Marshall, Brown set the record for career kickoff return average (29.69) that still tops the NCAA. His play eventually earned him a spot in the College Football Hall of Fame.

Brown was mostly used as a punt returner and backup receiver with New England until coach Bill Belichick arrived in 2000. Brown said Belichick saw a hard worker who held onto passes even if he didn’t possess the blazing speed of other top receivers his height.

“He saw I could play,” Brown said.

In the pros, Brown met a kindred spirit in Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, an overlooked sixth-round draft pick in 1999 who became the dynasty’s triggerman. “He had the same type of mentality as I did so we worked well together,” Brown said.

That was apparent as Brown became Brady’s go-to receiver. Brown caught 83 passes in 2000, 101 in 2001 and 97 in 2002.

Brown acknowledged that Brady had a sharp side for those who weren’t all about getting better and winning titles.

“At the end of the day, we could both be ticked off at each other, but still love each other because we still had the same goal,” Brown said.

The peak of Brown’s career were the three Super Bowl triumphs. He was also part of two title-losing teams with New England in 1996 and 2007, the year the 18-0 Patriots fell in the Super Bowl to the New York Giants. Brown was injured much of that season and retired soon after.

Along with Brown, others enshrined were South Carolina basketball standouts BJ McKie and Art Whisnant, Clemson all-Atlantic Coast Conference basketball player Greg Buckner, ex-South Carolina women’s basketball player Martha Parker Hester, late Clemson and St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Flint Rhem, longtime athletic administrator Buddy Sassser and one-time Citadel baseball standout Richard Wieters, whose son Matt is catcher for the Baltimore Orioles.

Brown is proud of latest Hall of Fame selection, but again wondered what had taken South Carolina so long after his pro career.

With a smile on his face, Brown said: “I thought I might’ve been overlooked again.”

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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