I stumbled across this story late last night on Yahoo! News (of all places), and I felt that it needed sharing. It’s a story that harkens back to the 1970s when Vince Papale defied the odds and earned himself a roster spot on the Philadelphia Eagles from 1976-1978 as a wide receiver and special teams ace. At 30 years old, Papale was, at that time, the oldest rookie in the history of the NFL to ever play professional football without ever setting foot inside a collegiate locker room. Some of you will be familiar with Papale’s story from the popular 2006 film, "Invincible", in which Hollywood star Mark Wahlberg portrays Papale and his unusal, inspirational, and awe inspiring journey to the NFL.
Recently, the Dolphins signed TE Les Brown, a former accountant and basketball player from Utah where he played the position of "shooting guard" for Westminster College, a tiny, "no-name" Liberal Arts College. After dropping out of school to pursue a full-time job with Huntsman Gay Global Capital as an account, Brown, at the time, gave up his hopes and dreams of playing basketball and, seemingly, gave up his dreams of playing competitive sports altogether.
(More on Brown’s journey to the NFL after the "Jump".)
With the draft drawing near, it only makes Brown’s story that much more impressive. In a league where it’s almost a necessity to have played college ball on some level to make it into the NFL, Brown has made it into the NFL’s ranks having never set foot onto a college field. Alabama, Florida, Texas, and Miami. Those are all major universities that send a plethora of talented, NFL- ready players into the pros each and every year. Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah - not so much.
After starring in baseball, basketball, and football while in high school in Utah, Brown was recruited by BYU to play football but declined and chose to stick to basketball where he would go on to play for Westminster College. After dropping out of school, Brown focused on his career as an accountant.
Brown was transferred to West Palm Beach by the company he was working for at the time, and after seven-months, he gave that up as well. Unhappy in his current situation, Brown went back home to Utah to finish working on his degree.
While attending school again and helping his bother Braden, an offensive lineman for BYU, get ready for the NFL draft, Brown was introduced to someone that took a shining to him and was determined to turn him into a football player.
Chad Ikei is a trainer for BYU’s football program and immediately took an interest in turning the one-time desk-jockey into a full-on NFL prospect:
Brown says this of Ieki:
"He looked at me and said, 'You've got the rest of your life to work. You could be a great tight end. Chad was persistent, he wanted to take me on as a project."
Brown dropped out of college, again, and moved to Hawaii in order to begin a grueling, three-month training program with other NFL hopefuls. Three times a day, six days a week for three months, Brown worked and trained himself into an NFL-ready prospect.
After his "training camp" had concluded, Brown attended BYU’s Pro-Day where (at 6-4 238 lbs.) he posted a: 39 inch vertical leap, 10 ft. 3 in. broad jump, and a 4.43 second 40-yard dash. After his incredible performance, believe it or not, Brown drew interest from several teams, including: the New York Giants, Oakland Raiders, Indianapolis Colts, Green Bay Packers, and the Dolphins. Eventually, Brown decided to take the offer from the Dolphins which is a three-year deal and an unknown, but reportedly quite minimal, signing bonus.
Just like the Ravens, the Dolphins opened up their first off-season activities this week. Brown was reportedly going to be in attendance.
And just like that, from Utah to Florida, from desk to desk, back to Utah once more, a quick stop off in Hawaii, and one opportunity. One chance where Brown’s life came to a crossroads and one shot where it was either make or break. The Gatorade cooler in a Dolphins uniform, or the corner office next to the water cooler. His foray into the NFL has begun, and regardless of what colors he’s wearing this season, I’m pulling for the guy, because this is what it’s all about in sports- and life- over-coming the odds placed in front of you and coming out the other side battle hardened, beaten down, and bloodied, but in the end, it’s all worth it.