Hard Knocks may be over with the season under way, but for some players they're still hoping their time in the NFL didn't end with the completion of HBO's fly-on-the-wall series inside the Miami Dolphins 2012 Training Camp. Last month we brought you an interview with Offensive Guard Derek Dennis, who featured in the very first episode of the series - his time numbered from the outset as he was cut by the Dolphins before even taking part in a kitted practice. Today, we bring you a second Hard Knocks interview, this time with Tight End Les Brown. Les featured right the way through the series, highlighted for his unusual route into the NFL, and his fight against the odds to make it onto the final 53 man roster in Miami. We'll leave him to tell you in his own words how he found the whole experience, his interesting past, and his ongoing fight for success.
The Pulling Linemen: Even though most people know you as a football player, you were a three-sport athlete in high school, before going on to play college basketball. Were you heavily recruited in all three sports? What led to you accepting a basketball scholarship over football or baseball?
Les Brown V: I was fortunate to have the opportunity to play all three sports after high school but at the end of the day, basketball was my first love. I had the chance to play right away at Westminster College, get a great education and stay close to home. For me, that mixture of positives was exactly what I was looking for when choosing where to attend college.
TPL: You put your finance degree at Westminster College on hold to join a private equity firm . At that point, did you assume your opportunity of playing sport professionally had passed? Or were you still looking for ways to get back into sport? When and why did you make the decision to try your hand at sports again?
LBV: When making the decision to work for Huntsman Gay Global Capital, I thought my athletic career was over. I had aspirations of being a successful businessman and the opportunity to work at such a prestigious institution was viewed by me as my first step to achieving that goal. However, being involved in athletics my whole life didn't allow for me to sit stagnantly behind a desk for long without activity so I began hitting the gym on a nightly basis. When I saw the changes in my strength and body size, along with the encouragement from my younger brothers (all 3 of whom are football players), I decided to pursue a shot at playing football.
|LBV at Westminster (P: Mike Terry, Deseret Morning News)|
LBV: I always missed football and often wondered "what if?" I had pursued it over basketball. For me, I chose to pursue football so I could put that question to rest and live my life without regret. I saw the success that my younger brothers were having in the sport and I believed that if I worked hard, I could achieve similar results.
TPL: Having not played football since high school, describe the process you went through - both physically and mentally - of getting into football shape. What were the biggest challenges you faced during that process?
LBV: Initially, the playbook was the biggest obstacle. Football terminology and a lot of the things the coaches said were like a foreign languages to me. Fortunately, I have always been a quick learner so I was able to pick things up fairly easily. Once the pads went on, the biggest challenge for me was blocking. The technique was completely new to me so I had to focus a lot of time and effort on polishing that specific skill set.
TPL: After playing wide receiver in high school, you participated in BYU's pro day as a tight end. How early in the process did the position switch come and was it something you were advised to do, or a position that you thought you would now fit better?
LBV: I was so skinny in high school that wide receiver was probably the only position that made sense. I was fast and had great hands so that is where I played. Once I decided to pursue the NFL, I made the decision very early on to go as a tight end. I felt that with my new size and speed I could be a real threat to defenses in the middle of the field and pretty much everyone that I talked to agreed that tight end was the route to take.
TPL: How influential and helpful were your brothers, Braden and Trevor (current OT and TE at BYU) in your decision making process and helping you train for your pro day?
LBV: They were very influential in my decision making process. Watching them play and viewing their success was very inspirational to me. They would also come home from practices or games and say things like, "you should be playing football". Their support and encouragement helped me to believe in myself and aided my decision to train.
|Les' brother Braden, OT for BYU|
TPL: Of course, your family came very close to being without Braden, and your father, after the Brown family home burnt down in '93, with your dad returning to the burning building against advice to save your younger brother. What can you remember of that day? Courage to fight against the odds must be something you got from your father?
LBV: That was a very scary time in my life and certainly a memory I will always have. My dad is my hero for his courageous acts. He has always stressed to me the power of a strong work ethic and a relentless desire to achieve. He taught me from a very young age that I can do anything I set my mind to and I buy into that completely. It is one thing to have someone say things to you but when you see them actually live by those words on a daily basis it means so much more. My dad is a tremendous example of how hard work and courage can lead to success.
TPL: After putting up impressive numbers at BYU's pro day, you received several invitations for private workouts from various NFL teams. Were there any particular teams you were hoping would invite you to work out for them, or were you happy just playing football anywhere?
LBV: I said from the very beginning when I stated this journey that I only needed one team to give me a shot. I was fortunate to have a few teams show interest but at the end of the day, I felt that the Dolphins were the best fit for me and I was excited for the opportunity that they presented me with.
|(P: Joel Auerbach)|
TPL: How long after the pro day did you receive an offer from the Dolphins? You had invitations to work out for other teams when you decided to sign with the Dolphins - what was it about Miami's offer that led you to sign with them instead of seeing what other opportunities were out there for you?
LBV: The Pro Day at BYU was at the end of March and I signed with the Dolphins April 13th. I really enjoyed my initial visit with Miami and felt that they were a team headed in the right direction. I wanted to be a part of that. I also had a strong connection with Tight End Coach Dan Campbell and felt that he was a guy that I could really learn from as I developed my game. Overall it felt like a great fit and I was excited to join their organization.
TPL: We saw throughout Hard Knocks that one of the things you struggled with was blocking. Was the physicality of training camp something that surprised you? Are there any preparations you wish you'd made before going into camp that you think might have helped you?
LBV: For me the biggest challenge was mastering the technique of blocking. There is a lot more to it than just being physical. I had never played with my hand in the dirt before so I had a lot to learn. I got better throughout camp and I will continue to work on mastering that skill set.
TPL: You were part of the Dolphins when the Chad Johnson issues happened, with his verbal outburst during a press conference, and his release following his arrest for domestic violence. How was it sharing camp with such a big character? What was the reaction amongst Dolphin players when the news of his release, and the reasons behind it, broke?
LBV: I thought Chad was a professional the way he came to practice and meetings everyday and worked hard. He wasn't a distraction at all in my opinion until the incident involving the police happened. I didn't even know about the press conference until seeing it on Hard Knocks. In the locker room and in meetings, he was very professional and handled his business. I don't think anyone viewed him as a problem. Once the arrest happened though, the coaches had to make a decision and it's the players' job to support that decision.
TPL: As camp went on, and roster cuts started, was there a time when you really started to think your time might be up? How frustrating was it to be on the sidelines for preseason games as other rookies and free agents got more snaps than you? Do you feel Miami gave you a fair shot to show your ability?
LBV: Everyone in the locker room is aware of the looming cuts but you try to block that out and handle your business everyday. You can't get caught up in thinking about that stuff or your performance is likely to suffer. Of course I wish I had more opportunities to get on the field in the games but at the end of the day, the coaches make those decisions and as a player you just have to do the best with what you are given. I am confident, however, that had I been given the opportunity to make a play that I would have succeeded in doing so.
TPL: Unfortunately, the Dolphins waived you as training camp entered its final week. Where does your journey take you next? Have you had much interest from other teams since your release? Teams like the Packers, Eagles and Giants all expressed interest in you previously, and inquiries from these teams?
LBV: I am grateful for my opportunity with the Dolphins but unfortunately it didn't work out this time around. I am certainly not giving up on this dream though. I will continue to work and hopefully someone else will give me a shot. My agent is handling all of the inquiries from other teams and/or leagues and when an opportunity presents itself, I will be ready to seize the moment.
|Dolphins TE Coach Dan Campbell|
TPL: We saw that you and Dolphins TE coach Dan Campbell formed a bond during camp, and when you were released he told his his door was always open if you needed any help or advice. Since leaving, have you been in touch with Coach Campbell, and what advice did he give you as your time in Miami came to an end?
LBV: Coach Campbell is a terrific man and a great mentor to me. I have communicated with him a couple of times since leaving and his words are always positive. He told me to keep working hard, beef up a little bit and to always believe in myself. I value the time I spent with him and will always remember the things he taught me.
TPL: If you are unable to catch on with another team right now, will you look for other options in football - such as in the CFL or AFL - until you get another opportunity in the NFL? Or will you go back to college to finish your degree and pursue your career in finance again?
LBV: I am 100% committed to playing in the National Football League and I will do whatever it takes to reach that goal. I am not certain where this journey takes me next but I do know that when an opportunity presents itself, I will be ready!
TPL: Thanks again for taking the time answer our questions Les, we wish you the greatest success with the next stage of your journey, wherever it takes you.
LBV: THANK YOU!
You can follow Les on twitter at @LesBrownV and follow us, The Pulling Linemen, at @PullingLinemen or on Facebook
- Gur Samuel (@FredTheGur)
- The Pulling Linemen
While you're here, why not check out our previous interviews, all linked below?
Derek Dennis, Offensive Guard featured on Hard Knocks
Adam Rank, NFL Network and NFL.com analyst
Francis Kallon, Georgia Tech Freshman DE
Daryn Colledge, Offensive Guard with the Arizona Cardinals
Chris Kluwe, Punter with the Minnesota Vikings and upholder of civil liberties