Former college basketball player-turned-account Les Brown ‘chasing a dream …
A lot of people in Les Brown’s life told him he was crazy.
Why would he give up a promising finance career with a major private equity firm to chase some silly dream of reaching the NFL? Brown, a former college basketball player at NAIA Westminster College (Utah), hadn’t even played football since he was in high school six years ago.
“I had a lot of people saying, ‘Man, what are you doing?’” Brown said Saturday by phone from his home in Salt Lake City. “You’re just chasing a dream. You have a better chance of hitting the lottery.”
Brown hasn’t hit the lottery yet. But he’s already proved a lot of people wrong.
Brown, 24, signed a three-year contract with the Dolphins on Friday night to play tight end. He was promised nothing more than a chance to compete for a spot on the 53-man roster — the Dolphins already have tight ends Anthony Fasano, Charles Clay, Jeron Mastrud and Will Yeatman returning from last year’s roster — but Brown makes an intriguing case to make the team. He stands at 6-foot-4 and 238 pounds, and was the surprise star of Brigham Young’s Pro Day last month, running a 4.43 in the 40-yard dash and recording a vertical leap of 39 inches.
“I understand this is just the first step, and the hard work begins know,” Brown said. “But I just want to do this for me, so I don’t have to spend the rest of my life asking what if I would’ve played football. I’m a no-regrets type of guy, so I had an opportunity and I jumped on it.”
Brown himself has a hard time believing that he got his opportunity. Much like current Dolphins pass rusher Cameron Wake, who spent his first two years out of college as a stock broker, Brown thought he’d be in the financial world after college, not in an NFL locker room.
Brown excelled in football, baseball and basketball at Highland High in Salt Lake City, earning all-state honors in football as a wide receiver and receiving college scholarships in all three sports, including opportunities to play football at Oregon, Washington State and BYU. But Brown wanted to play basketball, and wanted to stay near home to help his ailing mother, so he chose a basketball scholarship at a local private school, Westminster College.
After his junior year – in which he started 34 games but averaged just 2.4 points and 3.2 rebounds per game – Brown, a finance major, got a summer internship with private equity firm Huntsman Gay Global Capital
Brown spent two years in the firm’s accounting department, including an eight-month stint in West Palm Beach. But Brown felt he needed to earn his undergraduate degree, so he left Florida last July and returned to Westminster.
Two of Brown’s younger brothers currently play football at BYU – Braden Brown is an incoming senior and the starting right tackle – and they introduced him to personal trainer Chad Ikei when he returned to Utah.
“This guy came to me, and he was like, ‘You look like an athlete. What’s your deal?’” Brown said. “And I said, ‘I’m kind of a has-been. I played basketball but now I’m just working behind a desk and trying to finish my degree.’”
“He said, ‘Man, you have the rest of your life to work. Why don’t you come out here and work with me? The whole basketball-to-football thing is trending, I think we can make something happen.’”
In October, Brown left Westminster a second time and decided to train with Ikei in Hawaii for three months. He was invited to the NFL’s regional combine in Cleveland on March 17, and BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall let him participate at BYU’s Pro Day on March 29.
Brown was the unexpected star of the Pro Day, excelling in several of the drills despite a grade three ankle sprain.
“Being the no-name guy, I knew there had to be a ‘wow’ factor,’” Brown said of his Pro Day workout. “It was probably the biggest stage I’ve ever been on. I had a good workout and I was on cloud nine all day.”
Brian Gaine, the Dolphins’ director of player personnel, called Brown up out of the blue and invited Brown to South Florida for a workout this week, where he met Joe Philbin, Jeff Ireland, Mike Sherman and tight ends coach Dan Campbell. Brown left town for a private workout with Green Bay on Thursday, and had another one lined up for next week, when the Dolphins decided that they wanted Brown signed for training camp. On Friday afternoon, Brown signed a three-year deal with Miami.
“They said they’d like to run more two-tight end sets and be able to have one guy that’s more flexible and can split out and create mismatches,” Brown said. “I was so impressed with their organization. They were saying all the right things, and it was a good overall feel for me.”
Brown has a few loose ends to tie up in Salt Lake City, and will join his new Dolphins teammates at the start of a minicamp on April 23. He has to occasionally pinch himself to remind him that this is really happening.
“It was all kind of surreal and then it just hit me – ‘Wow, this is really happening,’” Brown said. “So here I am today. I’m very proud to be a Miami Dolphin and very honored. I just can’t wait for the next step.”
Tags: Anthony FasanoBrian Gaine Bronco Mendenhall Cameron Wake Chad Ikei Charles Clasy Dan Campbell Jeff Ireland Jeron Mastrud Joe Phlibin Les Brown Will Yeatman
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