FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — For newly acquired kicker Josh Brown, winning the starting kicker position over friend and fellow competitor in Nick Folk is business, nothing personal.
“This business is not for the weary or the faint of heart. This is to win and win alone,” Brown said. “Nick is going to get my best shot and the Jets are going to get the best of me right now.”
After finishing his four-year contract with the St. Louis Rams last season, one that made him the highest paid kicker at the time earning $14.2 million in that span with a $4 million signing bonus, Brown is ready to earn his worth with the Jets.
Signed to a modest one-year $800,000 deal, Brown is looking to ‘fit into the mix and earn the respect of the guys along the way’. Earning the respect of his new teammates began by informing Folk that the team would be bringing him in for a tryout, something that’s not always standard operating procedure for players.
“[Josh] sent me a text when they brought him in for a tryout,” Folk, who would go on to say that the two are “pretty good friends”, said.
Brown described the exchange as ‘professional’ and the ‘only way to go about’ this situation.
“The main thing is I’m friends with Nick. I know him. I’m not just going to blindside a buddy of mine and say ‘Hey I’m here to take your job’. This is the only job that was open at the time. I had to take the interview,” he said.
While saying that, however, there was a piercingly sharp look in his eye that all competitive athletes are equipped with — that killer instinct, so to speak. Although Brown may just be a kicker, no one can question his killer instinct. While at Foyil (OK) High School he was the team’s starting running back, safety, punter, punter returner, kicker and kick returner — setting records in all-purpose yards (10, 891 – single season / 19,136 – career) and scores (51 – single season / 122 – career). He was a three-sport letterman and a state champion high jumper. Needless to say, Brown defied most cliches regarding the NFL kicker.
When it came time to decide on a school and a position, he chose the rivaled Cornhuskers of Nebraska where he was purely a kicker.
“I thought kicker gave me the best opportunity to continue the football life and career. To play [other positions] at the Division-1 level you have to have certain attributes and you have to want to do it. I didn’t want to do it. It was fun in high school and I enjoyed it, but the punishment these guys take is not something my frame can endure,” he said.
Continuing to endure a life in football is something Brown has found self-fulfillment in from the kicker position. A career 81% kicker, Brown credits his preparation for his sustained success.
“Like anything else, it’s all in your preparation – being able to familiarize yourself with game-like situations in practice. Can you simulate pressure? Not always, but you can always understand the rhythm of your body. You try to not allow the situation dictate your emotions and control you. It’s exactly the opposite. You need to control your emotions and dictate the situations,” he said.
He cites a happy medium, that varies from game-to-game, between staying loose and tiring out his leg while waiting to be used in game situations.
“It’s all based on feel. It’s all based on how your body responds to the amount of work you’re doing. With offense and defense so evenly matched these days, the kickers are so much more valuable to the team. If you overwork a player during week and thinking it’s not a big deal you’re fooling yourself,” he said.
Brown, who graduated with a degree in communications, quite clearly draws a connection between NFL kickers and MLB starting pitchers. In his eyes it’s equally important to monitor a “pitch count” of a kicker during the week so that he is not overworked or fatigued by Sundays.
Although he understands the type of business the NFL can, taking the “mound” is personal for Brown.
“We both know what is at stake here. I have three kids. I have people that depend on me. He’s recently married. No matter which way you look at it, we’re both going to be playing in NFL this season somewhere,” he said.