As he slowly unspooled the tape from his hands after Friday’s final exhibition game, Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner barely allowed himself a slight, satisfied smile.
After all he’s been through, all of the disappointments — after four seasons in the Canadian Football League; after tryouts with a half-dozen NFL teams, including an earlier trial with the Seahawks; after being told he was too tall or too slow to play cornerback in the National Football League, Browner had made it.
He would start this season on the Hawks’ 53-man roster and probably start at corner in the season opener Sunday in San Francisco.
He could have allowed himself a minute to scream at the top of his lungs and celebrate the culmination of a journey. He could have cried or roared.
But Browner, 27, has been around too long and heard too much bad news to allow this one shining moment to consume him. He knows that in the NFL, especially the Pete Carroll NFL, the starting position you earn on opening day could be gone by Week 2.
There is no such thing as job security. A career can be lost in one bad game.
“Always want to stay humble,” Browner said. “Don’t want to stay too high or too low about it.”
Watch him in practice or preseason this summer and you had to wonder how so many teams could have been so wrong about him. In a league where wide receivers are getting taller, Browner, at 6 feet 4, 225 pounds, seems like a natural. But in the past five years he had auditioned for Miami, Philadelphia, Minnesota and the Seahawks and never gotten a call back.
“Sure, there were times when I thought I’d just get looked over,” he said. “I’m 27 now. I’m not getting any younger.”
Browner looked at this summer as his last chance to make it. If the Hawks cut him, he was planning to return to Canada and sign a long-term deal with Calgary. The dream would die.
“I knew this would be my last shot,” he said. “I came in here and told myself, ‘Go out there and be yourself. Do what you do best. Show these guys that you can play football.’ ”
The CFL is a great place to learn cornerback. The game is an aerial circus. The field is longer and wider. And receivers get as much as a 10-yard running start on the defensive backs. For a cornerback, the game is relentless. Browner is grateful for his opportunity in Calgary.
But there were the days when it was forbiddingly frosty. There were few heaters on the sidelines and sometimes it was so cold, the mucus froze in Browner’s nose. Yeah, that cold.
But without his four years in the CFL, the three-time league all-star knows there would have been no NFL.
“It could get really cold up there. Really cold,” he said. “But it was still fun. I still got to do what I love to do. I loved every minute of it.”